When Brian Cahill arrived at the scene of a big water main break on Links Parkway in Centennial on May 11, he knew right away that he had to be careful.
Cahill works in Denver Water’s emergency services group. His job includes shutting off the flow of water when pipes break in the utility’s service area.
Cahill said the Mother’s Day break on Links Parkway was the biggest one he’s ever seen in a residential neighborhood. The process of turning off the water brought him about 20 feet from the broken pipe that was shooting water skyward like a geyser.
“It was pretty amazing to see, and it sounded like a big waterfall,” Cahill said. “The water was shooting about 50 feet into the air and there was a river of water running down the road.”
Deputies from the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office and firefighters from South Metro Fire and Rescue arrived on scene just after 7:30 p.m.
The law enforcement officers kept onlookers a safe distance away as Denver Water crews arrived to shut off the water and begin repairing the broken 16-inch water line.
Cahill and three other members of Denver Water’s emergency services team responded to the scene to assess the situation.
“First, we checked our maps to see where the closest shut-off valves were around the broken pipe. Then we slowly turned the valve which shut off water to the ruptured area,” Cahill said. “If we shut water off too fast, we can cause the pipe to break in other spots because there’s so much pressure.”
The emergency services workers were able to get the water shut off without a problem and another Denver Water team arrived soon after to begin repairs.
“The size of the spray and the force of the water shooting out was tremendous,” said Ed Romero, water distribution supervisor for Denver Water. “This was one of the largest water main breaks I’ve seen in 25 years.”
Romero said the force of the water was so strong that it lifted a 25-square-foot piece of asphalt off of the street and moved it about 3 feet over.
“When we got down to where we could see the break and fix it, the rupture was about 2 feet long and 10 inches wide,” Romero said.
The force of the water damaged a nearby fence and left about 20 customers without water until the pipe was fixed.
Denver Water crews were able to fix the broken pipe within hours, working through the night to finish by 4 a.m. the next day. The road reopened around noon.
The ductile iron pipe was installed in 1979. The cause of the break is under investigation, but typical reasons for pipe breaks often include a combination of the pipe’s age or material, the type of soil around it, the water pressure inside the pipe, temperature fluctuations and other factors.
Denver Water’s emergency crews are available 24/7 to make sure they can respond to incidents quickly and limit the amount of time people are without water.
“We see pipes break at all hours of the day and night, on weekends and holidays,” Cahill said. “Luckily, no one was hurt, and we were able to get the water going again for the residents after a couple of hours.”