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Water, Water, Everywhere!

April 10, 2013

Water, Water, Everywhere!
Profile of Mark Ebert, City of Minneapolis

When Mark Ebert took a temporary summer job in the City of Minneapolis in 1979, he had no idea he would still be working for the city 34 years later. But he found his summer work with the traffic division to his liking; it was outdoors and fit his mechanical mind. Instead of going to college as he originally planned, he stayed with the city.

Today, Ebert is general foreman working under the superintendent of water distribution. His department operates the water distribution system outside of the two treatment plants. 

Ebert’s experience was essential on January 3, 2013,
the day of the largest water main break in Ebert’s history with the city.

At 2:30 p.m. the public works dispatcher received a call from a contractor reporting that they had hit a water main. The dispatcher sent out a crew to the downtown location.

What they discovered was that the contractor, while jacking a casing pipe under the city’s water main to install sewer service for a new apartment building, had gouged a hole in the side of the 36-inch water main. Water poured out of the hole, which measured six feet long by three feet tall.

Immediately, all daytime foreman and gate valve trucks were called to the scene to shut down water service in the area. In order to pinch down the water flow enough to close the 36-inch valves, city staff had to expand the shut down to 37 valves. Public works staff also established a temporary water source for residents and businesses within a two to three block area.

"We lost 14 million gallons in two and a half hours,” said Ebert, "and I didn’t sleep for four days.”

Ebert describes one of the tense events that occurred that Thursday night.

Mark Ebert, City of Minneapolis

The water rushing from the damaged pipe washed away the fill, exposing 20 feet of high-pressure gas main. A crew from CenterPoint Energy worked through the night to isolate the main and keep it from rupturing. Mother Nature assisted with warm temperatures.

If it had dropped below freezing that night,” said Ebert, “a lot of people would have been out of gas.” 

Once the gas line was secured, Ebert and his crews began repair to the water main.

The water main dated from 1891 and was made of cast iron. Ebert and his staff had to modify fittings they had on hand to fit into the old pipe. They replaced 13 feet of pipe, from bell to spigot, using two sleeves and 13 feet of ductile iron pipe.

Ebert is proud of the hard work and dedication of staff and their response to this emergency.

It’s not unlike what we do every day on a smaller scale,” said Ebert. “We’re happy with the response we had and the repair we made.”

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