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Although Oahu experiences far fewer main breaks than the national average, the resulting inconvenience, damage, and cost means we must act quickly. This is what the Board of Water Supply (BWS) is doing to prevent future main breaks:
When a main breaks, the BWS’s top priority is to protect public health and safety, while minimizing water loss and the impact on the public. Repairs are complex and require considerable care and time. Our crews work to restore service as quickly as possible.
Upon learning of a main break, we go to the site to close the necessary valves to stop water loss and isolate the broken section from the rest of the main. We close valves gradually to protect the rest of the system from abrupt changes in pressure and flow. Initially, the water outage may be more widespread until the break is isolated. Then once we start repairs, we try to keep water flowing to the rest of the system to minimize impact to our customers.
Prior to repair, utilities with buried conduits near the main are notified to mark their lines so we can avoid damaging them.
We set up a water wagon, or a spigot on a nearby hydrant, for customers who lose water service during repair. If a break affects many people or a vital traffic route, we alert media and the public via HNL.info, social media, or the BWS website. If the break has a significant impact on traffic, we work with other City and State agencies on mitigation plans. When appropriate, we arrange with the police for traffic control.
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We clear debris, set up safety equipment, excavate the main (most pipes are 3 to 10 feet underground), and pump out excess water around it. Excavating can be prolonged if there are other buried utilities close by. Once the main is unearthed, we can determine the extent of damage and make repair. Often, we need to replace the damaged section.
Once repair is done, we test the new pipe to ensure it is fit for service and disinfect it to protect public health and water quality. Next, we open a nearby hydrant to flush air and debris out of the pipe. Then, we reconnect customer lines to the main and carefully re-open the valves so that water will again flow through the main and build up pressure to normal levels.
Last, we refill the repair trench and prepare the road for patching. We install a temporary patch to cover the excavated area until a pavement contractor can put in a permanent one.
To report a possible water main break day or night, call (808) 748-5000, ext. 1