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Water main break in downtown Menlo Park leaves two blocks without water

Service restored next morning after nine-hour disruption

Two blocks of Live Oak Avenue between Crane Street and University Drive in downtown Menlo Park lost water for more than nine hours, from 11 p.m. Dec. 30 to soon after 8 a.m. Dec. 31, after a water main broke.

Bear Gulch District Manager Dawn Smithson of the California Water Service(CalWater) says it took crews hours to find out where the break in the district's pipes was so they could repair it.

Ms. Smithson said the company has recently dealt with as many as five water main leaks in a week, but breaks should happen less often in the future because the company is working to replace all its old mains.

The company is replacing three miles of mains each year, prioritizing those that have had multiple leaks, or are in sensitive areas such as near a health care facility or a creek where chlorinated water could kill wildlife, she said. The work, she said, should allow the company to "stop having interruptions like this."

The weather is also a culprit. "We've been seeing all these leaks because it's been so cold at night," she said.

Cal Water has someone on call at all times to deal with leaks or other emergencies, Ms. Smithson said. Usually, she said, someone notices water bubbling up and informs the company. Cal Water will then turn off water service on either side of the leak, determine where it is and make a repair.

"We try to notify people, but if it's the middle of the night we don't necessarily knock on their door," she said.

Ms. Smithson said that anyone noticing a leak can either call the company's office during office hours at 650-561-9709 or call the after-hours number, 650-553-4631, at other times.

Sending an email without a phone call is not the best idea, she said, because email is not continuously monitored.

The company does have the ability to call customers in an emergency or if a major project is scheduled to interrupt water service, but does not have a system set up to do so in the case of smaller leaks, she said.

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