They just keep coming! 76 water main breaks in just four days

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The water main breaks just keep coming! It all started on Saturday, May 17th -- when the city shut down one of its two water treatment plants. At last count -- crews have responded to 76 water main breaks since Saturday! When will it end?!

The Howard Avenue Water Treatment Plant was shut down on Saturday -- after Milwaukee Water Works crews identified a leak on an 84-inch water main located outside the Texas Avenue Pumping Station.

The 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.

On Wednesday morning, May 21st, city leaders were filled in on what's been keeping crews so busy for the past four days.

"We've been working around the clock to identify those leaks, to repair them. The Department of Public Works, street folks are right behind us and they were all weekend," Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie Lewis said.

Responding to all of these water main breaks hasn't been cheap!

Each water main break is costing about $10,000 to fix!

But that's minor, compared to a permanent fix.

"Roughly it's a million dollars a mile to replace a water main that is a small main in the city streets," Lewis said.

The leak in the water main located outside the Texas Avenue Pumping Station has been found -- but crews are still working to determine how long a fix would take.

"The main that pumps water to the Howard Plant is not very deep. It's about eight to ten feet deep, so by our standard it's a very accessible pipe -- so we think we can reach a fix sooner than two weeks," Ghassan Korban, the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works said.

Half of the water main breaks that have occurred since Saturday have occurred in pipes installed during the 1950s and 1960s -- during Milwaukee housing boom following World War II.

"It certainly heightens awareness of how aging our infrastructure is, in general," Lewis said.

Milwaukee Public Works continues to have contracted workers on standby to relieve its employees who have been working around the clock since Saturday.

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

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