Old piping is ‘most likely’ cause of water main break that created geyser


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) –  Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities is investigating what caused a cast-iron water main to rupture Monday on North 31st Street, where repairs are currently underway. The six-foot opening in the asphalt has been paved over, with final repairs on the way in the coming days.

Church Hill resident Shahida Sohail did not believe her eyes when she walked outside to find a geyser just a few doors down from her home.

“It was like a Niagra Falls kind of thing,” Sohail recalled.

he powerful column of water blasted onto the home near the intersection of N 31stand R streets, bringing down a power line in the process. Neighbors gathered around to watch as police held them back for safety.

“The way the pressure was, if any car was parked there it could’ve been badly damaged and made even more damage to the house,” Sohail said.

Crews worked the scene amid concerns that the six-foot sinkhole would expand, causing the road to collapse. The Department of Public Utilities said the age of the pipe is most likely what caused the water main to break. Officials are not ruling out the traffic load, external stress and material of the pipe as possible factors.

Sohail and other residents said they hope the city can prevent accidents like the rupture on 31st street from causing more destruction next time.

According to Public Utilities, the department replaces more than four miles of water main every year, with more planned this fiscal year.

A spokesperson told 8News that replacements are prioritized in order to comply with regulations for capacity, pressure and water quality.

DPU is still currently doing an investigation of all of the factors that might have contributed to Monday’s incident as the complete cause is still unknown.

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