Flooding near the Fairfax district

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(CNS) — A half-dozen Los Angeles Department of Water and Power water mains failed today in or  near the Fairfax district, causing street flooding and pavement damage in a cluster of breakdowns that the agency blamed on maintenance at a reservoir in the Hollywood Hills.

“As part of regular inspection protocol, the (Lower Franklin) reservoir is taken offline and temporarily replaced by a different source of water,” the LADWP stated. Fluctuations in pressure caused by switching to another source caused downslope failures near the traffic-dense Farmers’ Market.

An 8-inch line that broke under Croft Avenue sent a torrent of water down the street and over the curb. The oldest line that broke, under the 5800 block of La Mirada Avenue, was installed in 1925, according to the DWP.

“Franklin Reservoir has a floating cover, which requires periodic inspection and maintenance,” according to the DWP. “Additional system adjustments will be made today to minimize pressure fluctuations while the inspection and maintenance of the reservoir cover are in progress.”

DWP chief Ron Nichols said the breaks were not surprising, given that agency logs an average of 3.5 breaks daily. “Any utility that’s been around 100 years is dealing with some of these types of problems,” Nichols said.

Cast-iron water pipes last about 100 years, he said. “We’re replacing pipe right now,” he said. “At the budget level that we’re budgeting at, we’re replacing it at about every 320 years. That’s not something that we can continue to sustain.

“Nichols is planning to ask for a water rate increase that comes to 4.9 percent over two years when he appears before the Water and Power Commissioners this afternoon. The increase would average $2.53 extra per month for typical residential customers and help pay for replacing older lines. If approved, the hike would take effect in July 2013.

The department replaces about 95,000 feet of water pipes per year. The water-rate increase would enable the DWP to replace about 150,000 feet of pipe per year, Nichols said. “The bottom line is we have to continue to ramp up our funding for replacing these pipes,” he said.

Officials at the Original Farmers Market at Third Street and Fairfax Avenue stress that the market is open for business, despite street flooding from water main breaks in the area. All parking lots at the market are accessible.


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