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Ojai residents advised to check property for water leaks in case Ventura quakes caused pipes to leak or break

web CMWD Grand Ave. pipe 1
Photos courtesy CMWD
Sections of pipe removed from a mainline break on Grand Avenue in Ojai in October. The 12-inch cast-iron pipe is close to 100 years old, said Casitas officials, who are working to take the pipeline out of service within the next few years.

 

By Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter
Minor earthquakes, such as the series of small temblors that struck the Ventura County coast from Nov. 7 to 11, can create leaks in old water pipes.
That's why Lake Casitas officials are advising residents to check their property's water system for leaks to avoid unexpected conservation penalties.
“Some of these earthquake swarms that jar the ground can take something that’s already somewhat compromised and cause it to leak worse or even break,” said Michael Flood, general manager of Casitas Municipal Water District.
In early 2019, Flood said, a handful of Casitas customers appealed their conservation penalties. “There was an earthquake on Sulphur Mountain last October and, subsequent to that, a number of folks had a spike in their use in that same month. That was taken into consideration as far as forgiving those conservation penalties,” Flood said.
Pipes and fixtures on the water-meter side of the system are the customer’s responsibility to maintain. Some leaks are simple to fix, while others may require a plumber. “It could be a leaking toilet or a faucet or even something underground,” Flood said.
The water conservation tab on the Casitas website has information on how to tell if you have a leak by looking at your meter. “It’s good to get out ahead of it, rather than wait for that conservation penalty and then have to go through the process of appealing it. It’s much better for folks to take a look and see if they have something going on now,” Flood explained.
The largest in the swarm of shakers that began the morning of Nov. 7 was magnitude 3.6, near Plaza Park in Ventura. No damage or injuries were reported. As of Nov. 14, no damage to Casitas pipelines had been reported, Flood said. “Nothing happened in our system. Our system was just fine.”
Earthquakes aside, Flood said the situation was far from fine in the first 18 months CMWD owned the Ojai Water System. Since taking over in June of 2017, the agency has had to deal with nearly 200 leaks. “For comparisons, we typically have about 15 leaks a year in the rest of the system,” he said.
Many of the pipes in the Ojai Water System have been found to be more than 80 years old. A mainline on Grand Avenue that burst was close to 100, Flood said. “It’s concerning, and we’re working through a master plan to get a number of those replaced over the next 10 years.”
“A leak a week” was a phrase sometimes heard during CMWD Board of Director meetings. “We’ve been challenged to keep that system up and running and had to hire additional staff in order to keep on top of those leaks,” Flood said.
The past nine months have been better, according to Flood. “It seems to be slowing down. We’re working through some pipeline replacements and service line replacements right now, so things will definitely get better as that progresses.” In August, CMWD began two pipeline projects in the city of Ojai, on North Ventura Street and on Sunset Place.
Work to replace a broken pipeline beneath West Ojai Avenue near Cluff Vista Park continued this week. “We had a main break in a 1938 4-inch cast-iron main that ruptured, and it was bad enough that it lifted the pavement. We decided that since we’re going to be replacing that section of pipe coming up next year, that we would take the initiative to just re-route and abandon that pipe now,” Flood said.
The pipe was re-routed up Rincon Street. Casitas still needs to do pavement work where the roadway was lifted and expected to award a contract for that work within the next week or so, Flood said.
For tips on checking for leaks in your water system, visit www.casitaswater.org/for-customers/water-conservation.
Customers with questions about leaks can call CMWD’s water conservation department at 805-649-2251.
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