This 79-year-old pipe burst over the weekend at Gilman and Cornell in northwest Berkeley. Photo: EBMUD
This 79-year-old pipe burst over the weekend at Gilman and Cornell in northwest Berkeley. Photo: EBMUD

Crews from the East Bay Municipal Utility District were in Berkeley over the weekend to repair two old pipes at Gilman Street and Cornell Avenue that burst early Sunday morning, causing major disruption.

Water service had been restored to all customers by 5 a.m. Monday, said Tracie Morales-Noisy, a spokeswoman for EBMUD. She said the leaks were a good reminder for customers to keep an adequate emergency water supply well stocked, in case of service disruptions large and small.

Morales-Noisy said EBMUD first got reports of problems at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, and ultimately repaired two pipes. A piece of 79-year-old cast-iron pipe on Gilman was removed, and a 67-year-old pipe on Cornell was repaired.

Morales-Noisy said about 50 customers were without water during the repairs.

Crews work on a burst water main at Gilman and Cornell. Photo: Shauna/stormydayz

According to one local resident, a “chunk of the street actually collapsed about 4 a.m. with a flood about 2 feet deep all the way across the street” on Gilman.

On Cornell, north of Gilman, “several seeping holes appeared in the street about 10 a.m. The entire street began to push up threatening to break with another major break. EBMUD told everyone to get into their houses afraid of a major explosion of water and street collapse. Cornell Avenue from Gilman to the Albany border is now closed to traffic and cars,” the tipster told Berkeleyside on Sunday.

The pipe on Gilman ruptured, “creating a big mess in the street,” Morales-Noisy said. She described the problem as “trouble spots in the same area” that created a “cluster of leaks” at Gilman and Cornell.

Lucy Laird told Berkeleyside she saw, “massive amounts of water flowing down Gilman from Cornell westward” at about 12:30 a.m.

EBMUD turned off the water at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, and crews were on the scene by 2:30 a.m. to begin the Gilman Street repairs.

“It was a pretty significant break” that resulted in “a lot of mud and mess in the street,” Morales-Noisy said.

Crews remained in Berkeley throughout the evening to repair the 12-inch cast-iron pipe from 1947.

Morales-Noisy said many customers came by to find out what had caused the problem.

“Age is certainly a factor,” said Morales-Noisy.

Lucy Laird shared this photograph of Sunday’s water main break in Berkeley.
Lucy Laird shared this photograph of Sunday’s water main break in Berkeley.

Crews continued to work overnight, after repairing the Gilman Street break, to fix the problem on Cornell. About 20 customers on Gilman and 30 on Cornell were impacted, she said.

EBMUD has been working to restore aging pipes in that West Berkeley neighborhood. The agency restores 10 miles of pipes a year throughout its service area, and is in the process of ramping that up to 40 miles per year.

The agency focuses on replacing older pipes that are more likely to rupture.

“In that neighborhood we are replacing older pipe,” said Morales-Noisy. “The timing was spot on in terms of seeing the need to replace aging infrastructure. When age is a factor, pipes become more susceptible to leaks, breaks and corrosion.”

She said the break was a good reminder of the importance of having water storage on site: 1-2 gallons per person per day for 3-7 days.

“You will rely on those water supplies for emergencies big and small,” she said.

EBMUD put out several updates about the repairs as they were happening through its Twitter feed. (No account is needed to view posts on Twitter.)

Crews worked overnight to repair two broken pipes at Gilman and Cornell. Photo: EBMUD
EBMUD is working this year to repair a number of old pipes in West Berkeley. Photo: EBMUD

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...