Water from a main pipeline break early April 24 morning caused the windows to burst in the basement of Dennis and Ken Spinks’ home on the 4500 block of Raleigh Street.
“I had gotten up not too early and heard some banging on the front doors,” Ken said. “I came down, and it’s the fire department. They said, ‘You got water going in your window wells. You probably should go down and move your speakers off the floor.’”
Dennis said by the time Denver Water had shut off the valves connected to the main break, his basement and other neighboring residences had about 7 feet of water in their basements.
“You could see really quickly, you weren’t going to be able to get stuff off the floor because there was going to be way too much water,” Ken said. Dennis and Ken were staying at a hotel, paid for by the city, since the water main break, but on May 2 they said they intended to be back at home within a week.
Dennis, who sells insurance, said he knew their house of nearly 12 years was not covered for a municipal water main break under their home’s policy.
Jose Salas, a spokesman for Denver Water, said about 50 properties were affected by the main break, and the utility has sent staff to provide estimates on restoration costs for uninsured property damages. Denver Water offers payments of up to $8,000 to cover uninsured personal property damage.
If a vehicle is damaged and an insurance claim is made, Denver Water will also provide payment to cover the insurance policy deductible, up to $1,000, Salas said, adding the utility has already received “about a dozen claims for vehicles.”
The utility, however, states it is not legally responsible to cover damages caused by main breaks because of Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act.
“Denver Water … so far, they’re paying for everything,” Dennis said. “We do have to use their contractors, and kind of be on their schedule, which has been the frustrating issue. Otherwise we have to pay out of pocket and then get reimbursed, and we don’t have those kinds of resources.”
Denver Water had not determined the cause of the water main break as of May 4.
“Pipe breaks can happen for an array of reasons, including pipe materials, corrosive nature of the soils, temperature changes, shifts in water pressures/flows and age of the pipe,” Salas said. “We aren’t always able to pinpoint it, especially as we focus so heavily on rapidly addressing the break, repairing the leak, and getting customers back on water service.”
Salas said Denver Water has numerous programs to proactively identify and minimize leaks, and upgrade and repair its aging water system, which includes leak detection, pipe replacement, pressure regulating valve maintenance/replacement, and corrosion control.
Ken said they were fortunate the first floor of their house was raised about three feet above the ground, which kept it basically untouched by the unexpected deluge. But other neighbors weren’t so lucky. Dennis said one house across the street had so much damage that some of its wood had buckled on the first floor.
“This last week has been (about) getting the assessor for the city over to give us permission to throw away the interior contents,” Ken said. “We’ve had to inventory everything, take pictures of everything, and then haul it out.”
Salas said Denver Water’s most recent data from 2016 and 2020 shows there were 1,492 main breaks during that time, and he said main breaks occur based on various conditions such as the age of the pipe and surrounding soil corrosiveness.