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Iowa City to See Record Water Main Breaks

IOWA CITY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Iowa City is now on target to experience a record number of water main breaks in 2014, Assistant Water Superintendent Kevin Slutts said Thursday.

The water main breaks are becoming more prevalent because of shifting soil, Slutts said. Between last year's flood, the drought, and then this year's deep freeze and thaw, there has been a lot of pressure on the city's older cast iron water mains, and those pipes are breaking.

Every day, 6 million gallons of water filter through the city's water treatment facility. When a water main on Capitol Street burst on Tuesday night, that number jumped to 20 million, until crews were able to turn down the pressure behind the water.

"The crew worked all night to make the repairs to the water main," Slutts said.

And though that main was fixed in one night, this is a problem the city expects will only continue.

"I've been with the water utility for 30 years, and I think we're headed for an all new record, it looks like to me. Generally, as it warms up like it is now, we'll see even more water main breaks," Slutts said.

The city is in the process of replacing those older cast iron water mains with newer PVC versions, but that process takes time, and the city has a select number budgeted to replace every year. They keep chipping away at the number, but until then, older pipes will keep bursting.

"We're concerned with them. Annually, we have a replacement schedule that we go by," Slutts said.

As for the city's drinking water, the water department is waiting on test results from the Department of Natural Resources to ensure there are no contaminants present, said Iowa City spokesperson Shannon McMahon.

The city expects those results to be back over the weekend, and then it will perform another mandatory test 24 hours later. But, they said, this problem is far from over.

"We certainly apologize for the disruption in service, and we know it's an inconvenience and it's a problem," Slutts said.

Last year, there were 82 water main breaks in Iowa City.
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