Colorado Springs Utilities says there “isn’t a broad infrastructure issue” related to water pipe bursts

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COLORADO SPRINGS – Water service returned to businesses near Garden of the Gods road Monday evening, nearly an entire week after a connection on a water main in the area burst.

Garden of the Gods has been closed in some fashion since the break on Tuesday with two lanes reopening on Saturday and westbound lanes projected to reopen on Wednesday as crews work around the clock to repave the road above the repaired line.

“This isn’t a broader infrastructure issue, it’s just something that can happen in different areas,” said Ted Skroback, a public affairs specialist with Colorado Springs Utilities.

The break under Garden of the Gods road comes three months after a valve burst under the Academy Boulevard and Maizeland road in March that also caused an extended road closure of a major roadway.

CSU says the two areas likely laid water pipes around the same time in the 1970’s, but the two incidents are not indicative of infrastructure issues in the city.

“It doesn’t really matter if these are old or new pipes, mains, whatever the it may be. There can always be an issue,” Skroback said. “We have 1,600 miles of underground pipes going throughout the city so its a very complex system.”

CSU has a team of employees that look for infrastructure at risk of failing through various means. Part of their tool belt is a system-wide map of pipes that show the age, material, size and type of pipe in a specific location.

CSU considers two factors in deciding which pipes to replace—the risk of failure and the size of the impact if a failure were to occur.

When it comes to assessing the risk, age is one factor, but almost equally as important are the materials the pipe or main is made of as well as valves or connections, and whether the area has a history of leaks.

As an example, CSU has noticed that steel elements laid in the 1950’s are holding up better than cast iron materials used in the 1970’s, noting a pattern of cast iron corroding more quickly.

If the City’s 2C resurfacing projections overlap with pipes or mains that are identified as needing replaced, CSU will take advantage of a roadway already being ripped up to make replacements.

Skroback points to two failures that happened last week as examples of the system—the aforementioned Garden of the Gods, and another in a residential area.

The residential line was fixed by then evening it was reported, whereas Garden of the Gods is marked for an 8-day closure on the eastbound side.

“Most of the time you’re not going to notice when a water main break happens. A lot of the time its in a residential neighborhood, it’s a smaller pipe in contrast,” Skroback said. “The smaller pipe in the neighborhood was six inches last week, versus 24 inches on Garden of the Gods. Garden of the Gods is an arterial street so a lot of people are going to be impacted by that and see it.”

Skroback also says that CSU took additional time on Garden of the Gods Road to inspect connections further out on the line to see if more were at risk of failing.

CSU also wants to remind people that its jurisdiction ends with the connections to properties. The Utility will upkeep and fix pipes and main lines, but just like sewer lines, any connecting pipes to homes or businesses are the responsibility of the property owner to maintain, and if needed, fix.

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