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Why did the water main break in east Houston?

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HOUSTON – Houston’s aging infrastructure played a factor in the massive water line break in east Houston this week, according to Mayor Sylvester Turner. He said there is a possibility of a similar burst could happen in the future.

"When you are dealing with aging infrastructure, those possibilities always occur. That's in every city," Turner said during a press conference Friday. "Yes, it is possible it can happen."

The 35-year-old water line that ruptured Thursday was still within the range of useability, Turner said.

“There is always a tremendous need to invest in infrastructure,” Turner said. “You are even hearing that on the national level. Many cities are facing aging infrastructure.”

However, the American Concrete Pipe Association noted that the pipe material has a service life that exceeds 50 years.

“I don’t care what sort of a number you want to put on it,” Turner said when asked about the life expectancy of the east Houston pipe during the press conference. “The reality is, it was leaking. It erupted and it was a major.”

Turner said water leaks are “occurring all of the time.” However, the difference this time was the severity of the hole and that the pipe is connected to the East Plant, which supplies about half the city’s water, he said.

Before the water main break, the city sent a contractor to find and repair the leak, Turner said. While the contractors were on-site exploring the issue, the line burst when the soil around the line was moved.

“It was leaking prior to the work being done," Turner said. "That’s one of the reasons why the company was out here because the pipe was leaking and they came out to fix it. They were out here to find the leak and then to repair the leak.”

The burst lowered water pressure in areas throughout the city, prompting the closure of several schools and businesses. Restaurants without water were ordered to cease operations immediately by the city’s health department.

The city also issued a boil water notice Thursday. The advisory was lifted Saturday afternoon after the results from 43 water samples concluded that the was not contaminated during the water line break.

Turner said repairs to the water line is likely to wrap up Tuesday.


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