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Water line break leaves some residents without water to begin the weekend

A break in UMBC’s water distribution system meant that students and faculty had to contend with prolonged water-loss throughout the early part of the weekend.

Following a water main break, maintenance personnel were forced to turn off water pressure throughout several buildings starting on Friday morning. Water was restored to all of campus after crews fixed the break around 11 a.m. on Saturday.

According to Rusty Postlewate, UMBC’s assistant vice president of Facilities Management, the water leak was discovered around 11:30 a.m. on Friday in one of the campus’ main water distribution lines, located near the Physics Building. To address the leak, maintenance crews had to shut off water access to several campus buildings throughout the day.

“The campus has a very complex distribution of water lines to serve the buildings, energized by two large service feed lines (coming in Walker Ave and Hilltop Rd). The system consists of miles of water lines and hundreds of valves, some 12 to 14 feet underground,” said Postlewate. “To stop the water leak for investigation and repairs, the broken portion of the line needed to be ‘isolated’ by closing valves at various locations.”

The leak affected only one of the two main water lines that supply the campus. As a result, residents of Walker Avenue and West Hill Apartments had access to water.

Early on, crews tried to regain temporary water pressure to the affected buildings while repairs were being coordinated for the broken line section. “Re-energizing” the broke line with various valving combinations to the water lines was attempted in order to address the leak’s impact on the rest of the water system. According to Postlewate, energizing the broken line briefly restored water pressure throughout campus. This “prompt[ed] the assumption that pressure had been permanently restored,” he said.

As a result, Residential Life sent an email informing the UMBC community that water had been restored at 4:05 p.m. on Friday. However, “The broken line was leaking so badly, that it could not be left on and had to be secured, resulting in the loss of pressure again,” said Postlewate.

Crews continued working throughout Friday night, trying different valving combinations in order to redirect water to residential buildings from another part of campus. Finally, at 8 a.m. on Saturday, personnel found a valving combination that restored water pressure to residential buildings while repair personnel repaired the original broken section in the main line near Hilltop Rd.

In addition, a gas line was damaged during the process of addressing and repairing the water line. Although a “utilities locating company” was hired to find any other utilities that might be affected by the water line repairs, Postlewate said, “the company was not able to detect the gas line, and it was damaged while uncovering the line.”

The damaged section of water line has been repaired, and water service to residential buildings has resumed.