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Old 04-18-2011, 10:05 AM   #1
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Multiple holes in water main


I bought a house last fall that I am fully renovating. In November I had water coming up through the front lawn so I dug it up and patched the hole.

In mid March I noticed the same thing happening again in the same spot. This time I dug a much larger hole. It is about 6 ft. long along the main starting about 4 feet in from the shutoff at the street. When I got down to the pipe I found 4 patches (including the one that I put on), spaced 12-14 inches apart. The new leak is about 10 inches from the most recent patch, closer to the shutoff at the street. It is perfectly round about the size of a pencil eraser.

When addressing the first leak I fixed we found that I had an open neutral on the electrical service. The power company came and replaced the drop and all of the wiring in the house has been replaced so that situation is remedied.

My question is, how do I fix this so it won't happen again?

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Old 04-18-2011, 10:32 AM   #2
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Multiple holes in water main


Sounds like your water line is old and deteriorated. You don't say what the size of the line is, or what the material is, or how deep it is buried. I suggest you evaluate the option of completely replacing the line with a new line, properly sized, adequately buried. There are a number of good options for underground water lines, including PVC and copper. You can get coils of PVC so the line would require no fittings, except at the shutoff and at the house.

You should start by contacting your local utility to determine whether they allow you to make the connection to their system at the shutoff, or whether this requires a licensed plumber, or perhaps the utility makes the connection. Only they can tell you how they do business. The utility may also have requirements for the type of pipe they allow, and they may require a backflow preventer, which they may supply (at your expense of course), or you may be required to install it. Again, talk to the utility.

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Old 04-18-2011, 10:35 AM   #3
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Multiple holes in water main


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Sounds like your water line is old and deteriorated. You don't say what the size of the line is, or what the material is, or how deep it is buried. I suggest you evaluate the option of completely replacing the line with a new line, properly sized, adequately buried. There are a number of good options for underground water lines, including PVC and copper. You can get coils of PVC so the line would require no fittings, except at the shutoff and at the house.

You should start by contacting your local utility to determine whether they allow you to make the connection to their system at the shutoff, or whether this requires a licensed plumber, or perhaps the utility makes the connection. Only they can tell you how they do business. The utility may also have requirements for the type of pipe they allow, and they may require a backflow preventer, which they may supply (at your expense of course), or you may be required to install it. Again, talk to the utility.
It's 3/4 inch copper, I'll assume it's original to the house built in 1954. The main is exactly 6 feet down.

I'm trying not to replace it right now. Even if I have to, without remedying the problem the new pipe will most likely end up the same way.

Also, in the middle of the yard is a large pine tree that grows directly over it. That tree would have to come down to replace the main and I don't have the money for both jobs right now.

If it makes a difference, the first 18 - 20 inches of the hole is soil, after that it's all sand.
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Old 04-18-2011, 10:47 AM   #4
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Multiple holes in water main


A 3/4 inch copper line that deteriorated sounds like you may have acidic water. I had copper in my house, and the pH of my well water was about 4.5, and after 40 years the copper all had pinhole leaks. I ended up replacing all of the copper in my house with PEX, which is fine for indoors, but may not be suitable for outdoors. If acidic water is the problem, PVC would solve the problem, since PVC is not susceptible to acid degradation. But really, you got 57 years out of the copper, that is a long time, and the copper may be past salvage. You can certainly tell if you have acidic water, just buy a pH kit and see what it is.
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Old 04-18-2011, 11:00 AM   #5
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Multiple holes in water main


But why would acidic water cause so many problems in 4 ft. of pipe, but nowhere else on the main or in the house itself?
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Old 04-18-2011, 11:48 AM   #6
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Multiple holes in water main


Has your city changed their disinfection method?

Sometimes when changing from chlorine to chloramines it disturbs the coating on the inside of the pipe.

This can lead to small leaks.
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Old 04-18-2011, 12:02 PM   #7
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Multiple holes in water main


I was told it's still chlorine near me.
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Old 04-19-2011, 06:41 PM   #8
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Multiple holes in water main


It might not be the water, maybe the soil around that area is more corrosive. It's also possible that you have more leaks in the water line, they're just small enough that they aren't coming to surface. Many water line leaks are due to improper bedding (ie. putting nice sharp rocks directly on the line when backfilling instead of sand). If you noticed that sort of poor backfill while repairing the first couple leaks, you might end up with the same problem even with the new line pulled through as described below.

The process below works great if the service isn't too long and the grade isn't too extreme (ie. pulling up/down a steep grade). Plus, you'd need to find a contractor with access to the equipment. It should be cheaper than digging a completely new line in plus you'll save the pine tree.

You dig down to the line at the curbstop and dig down where the line enters your home. Cut open the line at the house, push a 3/8" cable through back towards the curbstop where the line has also been cut. Retrieve the end of the cable and fasten your new water line with something similar to the "pipe slice" described at the bottom of this link (http://www.wheelerrex.com/catalog/PD...Ctlg_44-47.pdf). Pull the cable/slicing head through (with the excavator, a pickup, etc) and the water line will pull through after the cable, leaving you with a brand new line in place of the old with only two holes to worry about.

Sorry for the long post, HTH.
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Old 04-20-2011, 07:01 AM   #9
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Multiple holes in water main


Sounds like your 57 year old copper water main needs to solemnly and respectfully be laid to rest. She's had a good life, and will again in the next one (scrap yard, $3.00/lb).
Trade her in for something younger and prettier (PEX).
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Old 04-26-2011, 11:55 AM   #10
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Multiple holes in water main


I picked up an amprobe yesterday and did some testing last night. I have a constant 1A on my water main. When I turn on the compressor it spikes to 14A and then sits at a constant 3.5-4A while running. Then I took the ground wire off the water main to find that there is still a constant 1A on it.

I need to contact the power company and get someone to come over and troubleshoot. It could be back feeding current from a neighbors house or a problem with the transformer on the pole.
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Old 04-26-2011, 06:41 PM   #11
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Multiple holes in water main


Leaf the tree alone. Route the new water line around the tree.
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Old 04-26-2011, 08:15 PM   #12
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Multiple holes in water main


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I picked up an amprobe yesterday and did some testing last night. I have a constant 1A on my water main. When I turn on the compressor it spikes to 14A and then sits at a constant 3.5-4A while running. Then I took the ground wire off the water main to find that there is still a constant 1A on it.

I need to contact the power company and get someone to come over and troubleshoot. It could be back feeding current from a neighbors house or a problem with the transformer on the pole.

You are trying to find a secret reason that a 57 year old pipe is corroded.

It's old,very old--replace it and move on.

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