Water main breaks tax city's workers, may impact budget

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- There is no debate the weather this winter is creating problems for Department of Public Works crews. Water main breaks seem endless, and there have been so many, it may set a record -- and officials warn if it happens to you, repairs can be costly.

Utility crews have been putting in long hours this winter -- some crews working for as many as 16 hours at a time. Water main breaks throughout the city are taxing both the workers and possibly, the city's budget.

Crews were on the scene of a water main break Tuesday, February 10th near 38th and Courtland. Department of Public Works crews arrived to clean up the mess.

"Cast iron is not very flexible. Some of these mains are in the 50s, going back to 1800 and stuff," Dave Goldapp with the DPW said.

Goldapp says this winter may be a record setter when it comes to water main breaks.

"This is the first time since 1996 since we`ve had this many broken mains," Goldapp said.

According to numbers from the DPW, in December and January, crews fixed more than 300 broken pipes.

In February, not counting Tuesday, workers have already seen 83 breaks -- a number that nearly hits the average for the entire month.

"This is one of those abnormal years.  This is not a year you can budget for," Goldapp said.

Just as crews began to fix the break on the city's north side, Brenda Schuyler said she finally knows why her pipes in Bay View have been making noise.

"We`ve had no water to flush or anything for both the upper and the lower," Schuyler said.

Her water pressure has been gone for days -- and a flow forming Tuesday was finally helping to answer why.

"There is a list. They had to add us to the list," Schuyler said.

Schuyler now waits for crews to come fix a problem that's been impacting the entire city.

There have been so many issues this winter, the city is using contractors to help with the work.

It is still unclear how much this may cost. The DPW says they haven't even started counting the bills -- but the city could be thousands or more over-budget.