Medford Water Commission tends to three main breaks in one week

(KTVL/ Kimberly Kolliner)

Crews were busy tending to several water main breaks in Medford all happening over the past few days.

Some were caused by human error, old systems, and others simply by nature.

Saturday afternoon as Medford Fire-Rescue crews were reloading water onto an engine using a fire hydrant, they got an unexpected splash.

"The valve got shut off at the truck and probably shut off too fast and it created a water hammer. This is a 1950's 6 inch cast iron main and it hammered and it split longitudinally 54 inches down the length of the pipe," said Jef Smith from the Medford Water Commission.

Water hammering is something all crews are trained to understand and look out for.

"If something gets shut down too quickly, you all of the sudden take 1,250 gallons per minute and just stop it and that sends a ripple effect through the system and can cause damage,” said Jason John, the Medford Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief.

This is why most engines have an electronic valve.

The water commission and fire crews believe this main likely exploded because of the age of the main.

"When you're dealing with a system that can be in certain areas as old as the city is, these types of things can happen," said John.

But they can also be caused by other types of human error like digging too deep.

"Yeah we had one last week where a contractor actually got into a 14 in main," said Smith.

The transition from fall to winter also contributes to a number of breaks each year.

"If the pipe is resting on a rock or something and the ground shifts with any type of seasonal change or earth vibrations a lot of times that concrete will just pop," said Smith.

The water commission says it's already off to a busy season with those three breaks.

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