City saw record number of water main breaks in 2018

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Albert Lea reportedly saw a record number of water main breaks in 2018.

City Engineer Steven Jahnke attributed the 57 water main breaks last year to corrosive soil, the age of pipes and ground movement.

The number of water leaks in 2018 was substantially higher than the four previous years:

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2017: 38

2016: 38

2015: 29

2014: 46

Jahnke said rain water froze and thawed, moving the ground. He noted the difficulties broken water mains pose.

“It takes up a lot of staff time,” he said. “It’s an inconvenience if it’s in front of your property. In the wintertime when they break, you’ve got a lot of water to deal with and freezing water to deal with as well.”

Jahnke noted the breaks took place throughout the year across the city. He added there is no short-term fix, and it will likely be a 10- to 30-year process.

“It took a long time to put them in, and it’s going to take a long time to upgrade and replace them,” he said.

Water main break costs are typically included in Utilities Department funding, paid through the water utility budget. He said years of high water main break numbers could lead to increased water and sewer rates. 

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker said water main break statistics show the city has streets at the end of their service life. He added he supports the city allocating more money for infrastructure.

Baker said the city has between $60 million to $70 million of capital improvement projects that need to be completed. He noted since the city cannot immediately conduct that amount of work, it needs to prioritize projects.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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