It’s STILL happening! DPW reports number of water main breaks continues to rise

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Since Saturday, May 17th, there have been SIXTY-FOUR water main breaks in the city of Milwaukee! Crews are working to get them repaired and cleaned up!

As a result, city leaders have requested an update from the Milwaukee Water Works and the Department of Public Works during Wednesday's meeting of the Common Coucil's Public Works Committee.

The problem?

On Saturday, the city shut down one of its two water treatment plants.

This, after Milwaukee Water Works identified a leak on an 84-inch water main located outside the Texas Avenue Pumping Station. That station pumps water from Lake Michigan to the Howard Avenue Water Treatment Plant.

Milwaukee Water Works officials say the pipeline was shut down to protect the pumping station from damage from the water leak.

Because the pumping station supplies water to the Howard Avenue Water Treatment Plant, that plant was also shut down.

This occurred at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, May 17th.

When the Linnwood Plant took on the extra load -- the water pressure was increased to get drinking water to the entire city and beyond.

The extra pressure was too much for some older pipes -- and that led to dozens of water main breaks.

Milwaukee Water Works officials say the majority of the water main breaks have occurred in the north and northwest parts of the city of Milwaukee -- as mains there don't normally experience such an increase in pressure levels.

City officials say they were expecting some water main breaks after the water treatment plant was taken off-line -- but not this many!

Now, they're working to get them all repaired.

There is only so much pressure a 60-year-old cast iron pipe can take!

"It's not very forgiving. It doesn't take pressure surges well," David Goldapp said.

Near 40th and Lisbon on Monday, the pressure was too much.

Goldapp -- Milwaukee Water Works' Water Distribution Manager was working to fix and clean up after a water main break there -- and he's had a long weekend!

"It's been 24 hours a day for three days in a row that we have been working and it's been tough on the guys," Goldapp said.

There have been so many water main breaks since Saturday -- the city has contracted extra workers to handle them.

As those crews are hard at work, Milwaukee Public Works crews are trying to get the Howard Avenue water treatment plant back online.

A private contractor is on site at the Texas Avenue pumping station -- excavating the 84-inch pipe to find the leak.

Milwaukee Water Works says it is not known at this time where the leak is, or once found, how long it will take to repair the pipeline.

Milwaukee Water Works officials say the best case scenario is that the pumping station will be out of commission for at least two weeks.

"It is unusual for the breaks to go on for two days, but until we get Howard Avenue back in service -- we will take whatever the system throws at us," Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie Lewis said.

Milwaukee Water Works says crews have repaired all but a handful of the water main breaks that have occurred since Saturday -- and water has been restored to a majority of customers.

Monday's break near Lisbon Avenue offered its own challenges -- including trying to fix a leak amid heavy traffic.

"This really caught us off guard, but we were able to maintain with the assistance of contractors and our own crews and stuff. We've done a good job of keeping up," Goldapp said.

The hope of Goldapp and the other tired crews is that they've made it through the worst of it.

Until both water treatment plants are online and functioning, there is still a risk of water mains breaking under the added pressure.

Milwaukee Water Works wants to remind customers the water is safe to drink and use.

CLICK HERE to visit Milwaukee Water Works’ website, to see if you can save money on your water bill.