A bulldozer grading a construction site punctured the main water line feeding San Clemente and the San Onofre nuclear power plant on Monday, sending a waterspout three stories high into the air, water officials said.
The geyser gushing from a 33-inch water pipe sprayed for about an hour until a valve to the pipe was shut. The heavy grader, known as a scraper, left a foot-wide hole in the pipe during the 2:30 p.m. incident, officials said.
Thousands of gallons of water were estimated to have escaped from the pipe, flooding portions of the 13-acre construction site perched on the hills above the city. There were no traffic tie-ups, although the water line break created ponds of water 50 yards across and 3 feet deep.
Workers were grading the site for the Ocean View Plaza on Camino de los Mares when the accident occurred. No one was injured, said Jeff Dahlstrom, senior vice president for the Ocean View Plaza Development Corp.
Ray Woodside, general manager of Tri-Cities Water District, said he was puzzled that the workers hit the water line because it had recently been installed by the developer.
"The developer paid for the relocation of the water line and he knows where it is," Woodside said. "I don't know why he ran into it."
Tri-Cities Water District is the main water supplier for San Clemente, Capistrano Beach, San Onofre State Beach and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
Capistrano Beach was the only customer not affected by the break, Woodside said. He said the break was expected to be repaired by early today .
Although Woodside said "there may be some local interruptions for a short amount of time," there was no danger of a major water outage in either the city or the nuclear power plant. The station, he said, has a five-day reserve supply of water for emergency purposes.
Over the summer, the main Tri-Cities Water District reservoir dipped to half its normal water level in a citywide shortage that ended in September.