Water Main Project Vexes Pacific Beach

Residents fed up with a long-term project to replace the area's aging water mains.

By Gene Cubbison
|  Friday, Feb 24, 2012  |  Updated 9:08 PM PDT
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Water Main Project Vexes Pacific Beach

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Water Main Project Vexes Pacific Beach

Gene Cubbison investigates the rising problems San Diego residents are having with broken pipes and repairs, and how Mayor Jerry Sanders' administration is reacting to the issues.
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Life's not exactly "a beach" for residents and merchants in Pacific Beach these days.

Many are getting fed up with a long-term project to replace the area's aging water mains.

They're being flooded with inconveniences.

Temporary, 2-inch metal "high lines" installed along curbs have taken the place of corroding, decades-old 8- and 12-inch cast-iron water mains while they're being removed and PVC conduit goes into the trenches.

But untold dozens of drivers have run over them, especially where they cross driveways, blowing out tires and breaking the high lines to point of spraying geysers well up in the air.

It's a sight that's become all too common along stretches of more than two dozen streets throughout Pacific Beach -- frequent fallout from a 3-year, 8-mile, $10 million city infrastructure upgrade.

"For probably a good six to eight weeks, it was pretty much every day that the water would be working one minute, and the next minute you go and try to flush the toilet or turn the water on --
the water pressure would be completely gone," says Steve Alexander, who lives on Thomas Street.

"You go outside, and water was shooting in the air because someone clipped the lines along the curb," he said.

The high lines are covered with asphalt at places where they'll meet with vehicle and foot traffic, but that's no 'fail-safe.'

"It usually takes us about one to two hours to repair the high lines because they're smaller-diameter," says Arian Collins, spokesman for the city's Water Utilities Dept. "It doesn't take as long to repair
high lines. They can take six, eight, ten hours or more."

For many merchants in the business district, all this has been a real commerce-killer.

Because of road closure and no parking signs, "People get just a little spooked because they see that and think they're not allowed to park here at all," says Cynthia Frega, owner of Cream of the Crop Women's Resale Apparel, on Cass Street.

It's short-term pain for long-term gain, certainly -- but time isn't quite flying by.

"Although it will be good in the long run, it's a bit of a nuisance at this time," Frega says. "And of course I'm not relishing all of this being dug up and all the noise and extra dirt and all of that."

The Pacific Beach project, listed as "Water Group Job 3012" on the city's books, began in May of 2010 and is expected to be finished sometime in the summer of next year.

San Diego still has 129 miles of degrading cast-iron piping in its water main network of more than 3,000 miles.

Officials estimate it'll all be replaced with PVC over the next five years.
 

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