New culprit in San Diego water main breaks: asbestos cement

An inewsource analysis of data from San Diego’s Public Utilities Department shows that city water mains broke 306 times from 2012 through the end of September, wasting an estimated 35.3 million gallons of water in the midst of a historic drought.

At the same time, data from the city’s Risk Management Department shows that San Diego has paid out almost $9.8 million in claims related to the breaks. That figure includes money spent compensating residents for damage to property or housing residents in hotels after their homes were flooded, money paid to private contractors who cleaned up after breaks and costs incurred in the course of investigating damage claims and defending against lawsuits.

What’s more, the majority of breaks are no longer occurring in the cast iron pipes whose replacement has for years been a city priority. Rather, three of every five breaks from 2012 through the end of September have occurred in asbestos cement pipes whose replacement the city has only recently begun to address.

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