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Denver Water explains why it took hours to shut off water after Berkeley main break

The utility said the main break was in a conduit that measured 24 inches in diameter. An 8-inch water pipe also broke as the road collapsed.

DENVER — Denver Water crews turned 31 valves to find the water main break that caused major flooding in a Berkeley neighborhood Sunday.

Denver Water said it took crews about three hours to get the water shut off in the area of 45th Avenue and Perry Street after the break Sunday morning.

Water service was restored to homes in the area around 9 p.m. Monday. The road will remain closed through at least Thursday morning as crews continue to work in the area, Denver Water said. 

The utility said the main break was in a conduit that measured 24 inches in diameter. An 8-inch water pipe also broke as the road collapsed.

"It takes time to identify what pipes have breaks on them and then to turn enough valves to get the large amount of water to stop flowing out of the breaks," Denver Water spokesperson Travis Thompson said. 

Thompson said one of the valves that had to be turned was under the water that was coming from the break, causing an additional challenge for crews.

A rumor that it took hours to shut off the water because a valve had been paved over is not true, Denver Water said. 

The utility said of the 31 valves crews turned to shut off the water, only one was paved over, and the two on either side of it were working.

Thompson said Denver Water's system has built-in redundancy, so if a valve is inaccessible or not working, crews can continue moving down the pipeline to close valves and get water shut off. He said there are about 80,000 valves throughout the system, and while they try to access and test them regularly, there could be a few hundred not working or not accessible at any given time. 

Thompson said once crews begin to turn valves, they have to closely monitor the pressure so they don't cause other breaks in the system. And once the water is turned off, it can take a long time to drain the water out of a conduit before crews can safely access the break to make repairs.

Denver Water said they do not know the cause of the initial break Sunday. The pipe was about 100 years old, but other factors, like the pipe material and a temperature shift, could have played a role.

The break caused major flooding in the area. Some people reported more than two feet of water in their backyards and basements. 

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