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Main breaks force M.U.D. out to endure chilly winds and freezing water

Posted: 10:36 PM, Jan 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-30 23:36:13-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Near 122nd and R Streets, the water is out. And somewhere underground, there is a busted water pipe probably made of cast iron.

"They're just more brittle in nature so they tend to break when the ground moves and that happens during the winter time."

That's what Masa Niiya, M.U.D.'s senior design engineer for the past 20 years, had to say about the materials used in old water main pipes.

When crews are called to water main breaks like the two that burst Wednesday, new materials replace the old to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"We want to put pipe in the ground that's designed to last 100 years," Niiya said. "What we're installing today is mostly ductile iron, but we're also looking at other materials as we try to find the best tool for the project."

That project is the Infrastructure Replacement Program that M.U.D. started in 2008. Its goal is to put the best material in the ground when old mains break, which some are from a lifetime ago. About 1,200 of M.U.D.'S 3,000 mile main lines are the old cast iron.

"We do have some really old mains in the ground back from the 1880s and 1890s that aren't failing, so there's a lot of factors that go into play," Niiya said.

Single digit temperatures and freezing water were the factors at play for one group of workers near 60th and Read Streets.

The water is back and running Wednesday night after it was off for a few hours.

"As part of the Infrastructure Replacement Program, once we replace those problematic mains, we don't expect to be back there for a long time," Niiya said.