By Matthew Sweeney, South Pasadena resident
Anteneh Tesfaye was rousted out of bed at 5:30 am this past Easter Sunday with the always dreaded emergency call. A busted 12-inch water main four feet under the street was gushing water and causing some serious damage up in the Monterey Hills on Indiana Avenue. As he drove up Indiana Avenue he saw the upheaved broken pavement and sunken potholes spewing muddy water between Martos Drive and Alta Vista Avenue.
Some of his crew were already setting out traffic control cones and barriers and moving equipment out of the South Pasadena Water Department trucks. Tesfaye is the Department Manager.
Over the next 24 hours or so, after shutting down the water along the distressed street, informing the neighbors about the damage and getting them to move their vehicles out of harm’s way, the Water Department crew worked non-stop and tirelessly, first to search out and find the location of the pipeline rupture, then to excavate down to the pipe, get rid of the still draining water from the excavation, and finally to expose, dry-out, and repair a hundred-year-old cast iron pipeline that had a six-foot long gaping crack. Tesfaye himself manned the backhoe as the crew excavated, cut away the damaged portion of the pipe, lifted it out of the trench, installed a new section of ductile iron pipe and refilled the trench with sand and gravel.
Around 3:30 am on Monday, this remarkable crew finally wrapped up their work and turned the water back on for the neighbors. Still left to accomplish in the days ahead was the repair and restoration of the devastating damage the unchecked underground water intrusion had wreaked on the street pavement as well as the potential undermining of concrete curb, gutter and driveways along the street.
I was the Public Works Director in South Pas some years back, so I know what it’s like to be jolted out of bed in the wee hours because a windblown 100-year old oak tree has toppled onto a house, or a rainfall flooded street has spilled over the curb with mud and debris flowing into someone’s pool, or, like Easter Sunday morning, a huge water main has ruptured and the gushing water is undermining the adjacent properties’ driveways. At least with the water main rupture it wasn’t pouring rain, but the bad news was that on Easter morning the Water Department crews are supposed to be home with their families.
Not this Easter.
This is the job these men and women signed up for, so there was no groaning or whining. While I was out there that night, there were friendly interactions with the inquiring neighbors, patient answers to their questions, as well as the good-natured chatter among a team of professionals who are good at what they do. I thought of the Dodger dugout on a winning night.
So because most of the public response to the City’s actions seem to be complaints and surly advice about what the City staff should be doing, I am trying to throw a little praise their way.