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Broken Richmond water main was on priority list for replacement

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Posted at 10:14 PM, Jan 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-19 23:31:27-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A two-foot-wide Richmond water main that burst Monday morning was on a priority replacement list prior to the break, according to Department of Public Utilities.

Angela Fountain of the Department of Public Unities estimates that up to 70 percent of the city’s water mains are cast iron, and they are “upwards of 75 to 100-years-old.”

While the city is still investigating why the water main broke, Ronnie Hairfield, who manages the instillation of sewage and water pipes for commercial properties at Robinson's Plumbing Service, said that both the water main's age and cast iron may have contributed to the break.

“The ground could move a little bit, or if something drives over it really heavy so many times...there's no play, it's going to break,” Hairfield said.

Hairfield said cast iron started being replaced with pipes made from plastics in the 1960s, but Richmond’s water mains were installed prior to that time.

“This will happen again, it doesn't stop here I'm sure,” Hairfield said about Monday's break.

Fountain said the city has an “aggressive program” to replace all of its cast iron pipes.

She said between 10 and 15 miles of cast iron pipe are replaced every year. Fountain added that this particular water main was on its replacement priority list prior to Monday's rupture.

The list targets pipes that are at a high risk for breaking.