East Beltline Shutdown A Symptom Of Widespread Water Main Problems

Posted at 6:23 PM, Feb 06, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-07 04:40:40-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A water main break that was called into the public works department in Grand Rapids Wednesday morning was still causing some traffic snarls near the intersection of the East Beltline and Burton Street in Grand Rapids Wednesday evening.

Grand Rapids city crews had less than a quarter of a mile blocked off, but it caused some delays for drivers during their afternoon commute.

Traffic coming from 28th Street north on the East Beltline backed up slightly near the Woodland Mall, and those coming out of the mall were becoming a bit confused as they realized they needed to take the detour.

Western Michigan University’s campus was also closed on the East Beltline Wednesday night and students were being re-routed to the downtown Grand Rapids campus because of the break.

Although there is no official cause announced as  to what happened to the pipe there, an unusual winter and fluctuating temperatures could be leading to more breaks in general in all of West Michigan.

Although the pipeline break didn’t happen in Kentwood, the city’s operation and utilities manager John Gorney said his city has seen its share of breaks this season. “We average about 12 breaks a year,” he said. “The unfortunate thing is we’ve reached our seasonal average already this  year. So I am hoping that water main break season is over for us. I know some of our neighboring communities have had some major breaks,”

Gorney believes one of the factors is the wild fluctuations in temperature. “The up and down the freezing and thawing, yes,” said Gorney. He said freezing and thawing is typically the biggest reason for a break. Also, the type of ground the pipe is buried in factors in. He said clay can be corrosive.

Water temperature in the pipe also plays a role, and the age of the pipes can make a difference in whether they break or not. That is especially true for those more than 100 years old.

“It’s an issue all over the county. We’re pretty fortunate in Kentwood because the pipes aren’t that old in Kentwood.”

In the Detroit area, the pipes were breaking so often they were the subject of a documentary. Three years ago, Warren suffered more than 100 breaks in one month.

Gorney said they always wish they had more money in Kentwood to work with in times of tight budgets but do have a plan in place to keep the breaks and pipe replacements under control.

“We do have a replacement program, We replace the pipe as monies are available,” said Gorney.

Some of that money comes in the form of matching funds and low-interest loans.

The water main break on the East Beltline could be repaired by 7:00 am Thursday.