Water main breaks not uncommon, officials say

"It happens," said Joe Harwood with EWEB. "When they break they break."

Posted: Aug 16, 2019 5:17 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Eugene is surrounded by all kinds of water, whether it's spouting out of a fountain or coursing through the Willamette River, and Joe Harwood with the Eugene Water & Electric Board says they spend millions to make sure that our systems are safe and sound.

But water main breaks aren't uncommon, he said, after a main broke in downtown Eugene on Friday.

"It happens," said Harwood. "When they break they break."

He said between now and October, we might see upwards of 5 or 10 more breaks.

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The Eugene area has a lot of clay in the ground, and it expands when we get the mass amounts of rain we are known for in the Pacific Northwest, and then summer hits.

"That clay will start to contract," he said. "Just that movement, that expansion and contraction, can cause leaks like the one we saw."

But Harwood also said the city prioritizes infrastructure and currently has six water main replacement projects underway, including one under Willamette Street from 23rd to 28th avenues.

He said EWEB doesn't take the importance of quality infrastructure lightly.

"In order to be resilient, we need to invest in infrastructure, and we've been making infrastructure investment for 10 years," Harwood said.

He said this all falls under Eugene's water reliability initiative, which is tasked with the upkeep of the 800 miles of distribution piping that runs into our city. They work all year to maintain these systems.

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