UCLA water main rupture: Repairs to take 'extended period of time'

Officials say repairs to the UCLA-area water main, which sent 8 million to 10 million gallons of water gushing onto the campus, will take several days.

Repairs to a ruptured water main near UCLA that gushed up to 10 million gallons of water onto Westwood roads as well as the campus will not be completed Wednesday and may take "an extended period of time," a utility official said.

The effort to repair the damaged main is complicated by the 30-inch steel pipe's location and connection to other valves east of the rupture, said Jeff Bray, general superintendent for water distribution at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.


"This leak repair will not be completed today. We're looking at an extended period of time," he said.

Until the water main is repaired, the section of Sunset Boulevard from Marymount Place to Westwood Plaza was expected to remain closed, prompting officials to warn commuters to stay away.

"If you don't have any business in the area, or don't live in the area, please don't come close to the closure," said Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesman Aram Sahakian.

He urged drivers to use Wilshire Boulevard, or to go as far south as Olympic Boulevard to get around the area.

The rupture occurred shortly before 3:30 p.m. Tuesday underneath Sunset Boulevard near Royce Drive, just uphill from UCLA. The pipe receives its water from the Upper Stone Canyon Reservoir.

The main, which delivers 75,000 gallons a minute, was finally shut down about 7 p.m., officials said.

But by then, water gushing from 15-foot-wide hole that opened up on Sunset had deluged the campus. At one point, the geyser spewed water as high as 30 feet into the air, officials said.

Firefighters helped five people escape two underground parking garages that were flooded with torrents of water. Firefighters searched about 200 cars but found no other victims, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman said.

The length of time it took to shut off the water left DWP officials defending their response. Officials said crews worked as quickly as possible to shut down three large-diameter valves, but that they couldn't be closed too quickly because doing so could trigger additional ruptures in the web of water lines that feed the area.

Also, when crews assessed how to repair the main, they discovered two more leaks east of it, Bray said. Until those leaks are stopped, they can't pull out the ruptured pipe and replace it, he said.

"It's creating issues for us," Bray said. "This leak repair will not be completed today. We're looking at an extended period of time."

Crews also worked overnight to drain water from the broken pipe, which must be cleared before repairs can begin, a DWP spokesman said.

Meanwhile, UCLA officials said they were still trying to assess the damage to their campus and student property.

Officials said up to 300 cars on campus were partially submerged in water and several hundred more were damaged. In all, six buildings sustained water damage, campus officials said. They were: the Pauley Pavilion, John Wooden and Acosta athletic complexes, the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center and parking structures 4 and 7.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Jaime Moore said Wednesday that the wood flooring at the pavilion had been "compromised," although complete damage assessment had not been completed.

Workers Tuesday night were using brooms, squeegees, vacuums and floor cleaners to remove the water. As that work was underway, sandbags sat stacked at the service entrance in an effort to hold back water still cascading down the stairs.

Officials estimated the pavilion was submerged in up to 10 inches of water.

As of Wednesday morning, no DWP customers were without water, DWP spokesman Albert Rodriguez said.

Times staff writers Caitlin Owens, James Queally and Larry Gordon contributed to this report.