Water pipe bursts into downtown business basement - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Water pipe bursts into downtown business basement

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - We've seen the weather go from rain to snow and temperatures rising and falling.  It can be hard to adjust to all this change.

The same is true for Eau Claire's water pipes and after four breaks this winter, the city has been busy.

"The water was filling up, shooting straight out the side of the wall," says martial arts studio owner, Joshua Zimmerman.

The scene was a wet one Saturday in Zimmerman's gym on Barstow Street.

"As far as I know, they've never seen anything like this happen before since one of their pipes just exploded like that," says Zimmerman.

Most breaks happen buried under several feet of frosty earth.

"In the climate that we live in we have frost that goes down into the ground during the winter months.  It shifts the ground which actually moves the pipe a bit," says Eau Claire Utilities Administrator, Jeff Pippenger.

New pipes can handle the movement quite well, it's the older one's like this one from the 1930's that crack under the pressure.

"We do have a very proactive maintenance system where we flush our system.  We also do leak detection within the system," says Pippenger.

As long as those decades old pipes pass the test there's no reason to pull them out of service, but they are routinely upgraded alongside other projects.

"At that time if we're going to reconstruct a street, we'll reconstruct that portion of it," says Pippenger.

In this case the break happened on the property owner's side of the water line shut off so it's their responsibility to cover the cost of repairs.

"Basically now they're ripping up all the carpets and cutting all the walls out.  Get everything dried up and taken care of," says Zimmerman.

Including the new pipe connecting to the downtown main line, which should span many more years to come.

"Most of the pipe we put into the ground today, I mean you don't expect to see it break," says Pippenger.

The water may be back up and running, but the action in the martial arts studio is suspended.

"Hopefully all the new carpet and everything will be in, in one week and then we'll be back up running," says Zimmerman.

Typically the city handles an average of ten water pipe breaks each winter and older pipes rupture more often than the newer materials used to replace them.

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