Water company replacing aging pipes in face of major earthquakes

The East Bay Municipal Utility District is replacing an aged and faulty 3,000-foot water pipeline that would most likely rupture during a major earthquake and cut off water service to residents for weeks, if not months. 

A simulation by the United States Geological Survey says that if a 7.0 magnitude earthquake strikes East Bay EBMUD's water system on the Hayward fault, the potential damage could be catastrophic 

"In Berkeley and Hayward the ground shifts 3 to 5 feet, ripping through buried pipes and wires. Some East Bay residents could lose water for 6 weeks and up to six months," according to the USGS.

The current pipeline has averaged a major break each year for the last 30 years, with increasing regularity, as this land has continued to shake and shift.

The new pipe is made of flexible materials that can move with the land. 

“It can bend to the right, to the left, up and down a certain number of degrees,’’ said EBMUD Senior Civil Engineer David Katzev. 

The new piping is expected to last 150 years and won’t break apart in the East Bay’s corrosive soils. 

 "It's able to shift a little bit more, bend a little bit more than the old cast iron. It's not as brittle," said   Katsev.

The new pipes were constructed in Union City out of recycled and specialized metals. Each pipe joint can expand or contract three inches. Tied together with many other lengths of pipe, the system can expand and contract for yards. 

Two more major pipe replacement projects are in the planning stages along with other less demanding ones.

"This year we reached a record goal in replacing 17.6 miles of pipe," said EBMUD spokeswoman Tracie Morales. 

A good chunk of a recent rate hike will help with this effort.

"That will allow us to ramp up to 20 miles of pipeline replacements per year and that insures a more reliable system," said Morales.