It is common that a homeowner will live with a broken water main for several days before becoming aware of the broken pipe. The water may continuously travel underground until it finds a point to surface, in many cases the water may arise in the roadway or sidewalk. The most common place for a water line leak to surface is through the foundation wall of a house.
It may first come apparent when you are doing the Saturday morning wash and start to notice a small trickle of water at the wall. It is common to first ignore the water, assuming it may have seeped through the wall from the most recent snow or rainstorm. At this point it is extremely important to contact a licensed plumber for a professional assessment on where the water is coming from.
Steps to follow
- Perform a noise test on the water line. You should first tell everyone in the house to stop running any water and/or close the main house control valve to stop any water from running. Assuming there is no running water, the main water line should be completely silent as all of the water in the pipe is sitting still. If you listen to the pipe and hear a hissing sound, or a vibration, this is a strong indication that you have a broken water line. It is always suggested to have a licensed plumber perform the test as he will have a trained ear and the proper equipment.
- If the noise is subtle or non-apparent, it is suggested to contact DEP (311) and make them aware of the situation. When calling you should be as descriptive as possible and make sure they are aware that this subtle leak may turn into a major flood at any minute. A DEP representative should arrive at the house within hours to investigate and most likely check the neighboring houses for a water leak. It is common that your neighbor’s water main may be broken and leaking through your foundation wall.
- You should always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Make sure that you have cleared all electrical equipment from the floor and have a sump pump in the house just in case the leak turns into a flood. In many cases it is easy to setup a makeshift contraption to direct the leaking water from the basement to outside the house. This setup should be setup on a temporary basis as you may be subject to fines and summonses if found pumping water from the house for an extended period of time.
Once the source of the leak is found……
You should contact a licensed and bonded master plumber to provide a free estimate on how much it will cost to repair or replace the broken water main. He will first take some basic measurements including how far the city water main is from the house, contact DOT to see if the roadway has been resurfaced within the previous five years and determine what size and material the pipe is.