SJW staff on the job

On the Job with Distribution Services: Emergency Leak Repair

SJW employees in full PPE capping the main
SJW employees in full PPE capping the main

In a perfect world, routine maintenance and repairs happen between 8 AM and 5 PM. Fortunately, San Jose Water’s Distribution Services (DS) team is on call to serve our customers 24 hours a day. A perfect example of this dedication occurred the night of August 6-7, 2020.

A leak on a 17” main at Camden Avenue and Hicks Road in San Jose required immediate attention. Not only was there water loss, but the source was under a bridge embankment adjacent to the Guadalupe Creek. Keenly aware of our environmental responsibilities, we did not want chlorinated water to enter a waterway and cause damage to the ecosystem. We  took all best management practices to prevent any issues including the disbursement of de-chlorination table placed where water ran in the street.

This particular site was tricky. It was more than a simple patch of a broken pipe — the main needed to be capped off so a permanent repair could be designed. It was a deeply buried pipe within an embankment that required more than a simple patch.  SJW’s DS department was in charge of the site with crews working round-the-clock to get the jobs done. SJW’s Engineering, Planning and Operations staff provided input on the repair to make sure nothing was overlooked.  This job took two days due to site constraints, safety plans, and potential impact on the nearby waterway.

Because a deep hole was needed to reach the main, our contractor, West Valley Construction, assisted with heavy excavation equipment, an operator and a welder. A shield shoring design plan was engineered and constructed to make sure staff were safe while deep in the hole. PG&E was called in to restrain a nearby electrical pole.

West Valley construction crew member expertly welding pipe
WV Construction expertly welding pipe

This main, built in 1966, was shut down quickly by turning off nearby valves. The SJW system offers flexibility in water sources,so staff were able to provide alternative water sources for all but 8 customers. Those impacted customers received bottled water and were kept continually updated.   

Due to COVID-19, special safety steps were taken to ensure the safety of workers. Face coverings, gloves, social distancing, and signage were required on the job site. Close proximity by two SJW staff members was unavoidable when it came to making the final repairs. N-95 masks and short periods of time near one other were just two of the safety precautions put in place for everyone’s protection.

Shout out to all the hard-working SJW staff that worked on this job. Maintaining our distribution system, reducing water loss, and protecting the environment is all in a day’s work!