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City: Water Line Breaks Typical For Tulsa Due To Weather, Soil

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The city has responded to 22 water line breaks so far this month. The city has responded to 22 water line breaks so far this month.
Engineering Planning Manager, Matt Liechti. Engineering Planning Manager, Matt Liechti.
The five year average shows more than usual breaks in January and February, but relatively few in the last month. The five year average shows more than usual breaks in January and February, but relatively few in the last month.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

The city has responded to 22 water line breaks so far this month, but that's not been the cause of the majority of the work on water lines.

The major work is not is not the unscheduled repairs, it's the big jobs like replacing lines on entire streets to prevent problems from happening.

When a water line breaks it can be a spectacular mess, like the one last week on Harvard that disrupted water service over an entire neighborhood.

7/11/2014 Related Story: Second Water Main Closes Part Of North Harvard Avenue In Tulsa

More often than not, breaks are small and the disruption is mainly to traffic that has to get around it in the street. One repair at 11th and Harvard was a 24 hour job start to finish.

The city handles emergency repairs as they come up but replaces pipe over the long term based on age and the history of problems. If it frequently breaks it goes to the top of the list.

"If the pipe is calling out to us we'll go ahead and investigate that pipe, that's one of the ones that would get done first," said Engineering Planning Manager, Matt Liechti. “We talk about the likelihood of failure, the impact of what would happen if it did fail, those kind of things go into the decision.”

The city's long term plan is to replace water pipes on about a 50 to 75 year schedule. It's often done at the same time as street replacement work so all the underground utilities can be buried at once.

"We spend our dollars on the lines that are causing the most problems and new pipe, pipe should last 75 to 100 years when it's installed properly," Liechti said.

Tulsa has not had an extraordinary number of breaks so far this year. The five year average shows more than usual breaks in January and February, but relatively few in the last month.

2014 City Of Tulsa Break Report

The city's engineers said Tulsa's problems with water line breaks are typical for our weather patterns and type of soil, and the only concentrations for breaks are areas with older infrastructure and more expansive soil.

That's the situation just north of downtown, where the pipes are older because it's an older part of the city. One line replacement project is wrapping up and should last another 75 years.

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