Woman: San Diego better buy sandbags because water department won't save you

Resident says public utilities response too slow

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego woman calls Team 10 after she said her home was damaged during a water main break and she blames the slow response time from the public utilities department.

Team 10 started asking questions about how long the department takes to shut off these leaks. Susan Mccubin's home was flooded after a water main break in North Park on Madison Avenue on June 3.

"My issue is that this is all preventable if they would have shown up in the first hour none of these homes would be damaged," said Mccubbin.

Team 10 was there as the water flowed down the street and residents waited and waited for someone to show up.

"I mean, I don't know what their schedule is but I'm pretty distressed," said a woman at the time of the break.

Residents said city workers showed up an hour and a half later and the water was shut off two hours after that.

"Water was not going under my house at 2 hours - at 3 hours, yes," said Mccubbin.

Mccubin's and three other homes were damaged and fans were still drying out her basement weeks later. She said she was working with the city's risk management department on paying for the repairs.

"So your tax dollars are going to be used to remove each and every brick and power wash them and reset them," Mccubin said. "That's what you paid your property tax for. Not for emergency response. You are paying to clean up my back yard now."

Team 10 had another complaint about water response times in May after a Rancho Bernardo resident said it took 15 hours to shut off the water when a pipe burst on his street.

"Conservation really needs to start from the people telling you to conserve," said Michael Wolf.

Team 10 requested water main break reports from the last three years through the California Public Records Act.

Team 10 wanted to know when the breaks were reported and what time the water was shut off but Deputy Director of the Public Utilities Department Water Operations, Stan Medina, said they just started recording shut off times 14 months ago.

The supervising public information officer for the Public Utilities Department, Arian Collins, would not do an on camera interview for this story. He told Team 10 by email:

We have around 100 water main breaks each year. The goals of the Public Utilities Department involving water main breaks include having an Emergency Services unit respond to the break within 30 minutes, have the water shutdown within 30 minutes of the unit arriving, and having a construction crew arrive at the site to begin making repairs within 30 minutes of the shutdown. The time it takes to repair a water main break depends upon a number of circumstances, including size of the pipe, location of the pipe, weather conditions, street conditions, etc.

Challenges in responding to water main breaks include time of day as well as day of the week that break occurs, location of responding unit when notified of the break, traffic conditions, etc.

In the 54 reports released by the department, 11 breaks were shut off within 60 minutes.

The shortest time was 35 minutes and the longest time 216 hours.

"My recommendation to every homeowner is buy sandbags because the city isn't going to come and save you. Not in a timely manner," said Mccubbin.

Medina has made some changes to the department's water operations since becoming deputy director. It was his idea to have the crews start recording shut off times and to dispatch two crews automatically to a water main break.

Collins said there is currently a fact finding investigation over the water main break that occurred on June 3 on Madison Avenue.

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