Burst pipe that flooded homes was unfortunate but unforeseeable, Portland water chief says

Gordon R. Friedman, The Oregonian on May 16, 2019

Michael Stuhr, the Portland Water Bureau director, said Thursday his agency feels badly that a 30-inch water main burst and flooded Northeast Portland homes in March, but said the rupture was unforeseeable.

About a dozen homeowners whose homes suffered water damage from the catastrophic pipe failure on March 16 have since had damage payment claims denied by insurers and the city. They’ve been stuck with repair bills that, for some, have exceeded $50,000.

Dramatic pipe breaks like the one in question, which at its peak gushered 40,000 gallons a minute into neighborhoods around Northeast 23rd Avenue and Skidmore Street, are exceedingly rare, Stuhr said.

And this one, he said, was impossible to see coming: The circa-1915 cast iron pipe that failed had shown no signs of breakage and had not reached even half its 230-year lifespan, he said.

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