More than four dozen water mains ruptured, particularly on the north side, after water pressure swelled Saturday. The surge was intentional.
Carrie Lewis, superintendent of Milwaukee Water Works, says the initial problem was a leak at its Texas Avenue Pumping Station on the south side – it pulls in water from Lake Michigan and sends it to the Howard Avenue treatment plant. The utility had to shut down that pumping station to prevent damage, and then push its second one into high gear - Linwood, on the north side.
Lewis says the pipes that were too weak to handle the resulting surge, were longer and made of a thinner material than others. The city planted them in the 1940s through the 1960s, when Milwaukee was growing rapidly.
"Those water mains, when they were put in, in that time period, were just dropped in the ground. And so the water main is in contact with the corrosive soil and that can cause the main to get thin, in some spots,” Lewis says.
The utility supplies drinking water to more than 860,000 customers in Milwaukee and 15 surrounding communities.
No word yet on what caused water to leak into the Texas Avenue Pumping Station, but it needs to be repaired, before it can resume supplying water to the Howard Avenue treatment plant.