The 3-Minute Interview: “There were hundreds of water mains broken”

Bill Teahan

The superintendant of construction and maintenance at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission was working as a field plumber in 1989.

What were your initial duties after the Loma Prieta earthquake struck? We had a massive power outage in The City, so one of the first things I had to do was haul up a diesel pump and we used that to move water from one reservoir to another until the power came back on by about 9 o’clock at night.

What did you do after dealing with the power outage? Myself and my partner were reassigned and went down to the Marina district, where we spent the next three weeks. I would say 90 percent of the field staff, including plumbers, truck drivers, engineers and laborers were all assigned to the Marina district.

What did you do in the Marina? There were hundreds of water mains that were broken — hundreds. I replaced water lines, so I’d replace broken sections of mains. On the smaller lines, which feed the houses, we replaced the whole water mains.

Would you expect similar damage in the Marina if a similar quake struck today?
No, because 8,000 feet in the Marina district have been replaced with ductile iron pipe and more durable lateral lines.

Was that the busiest time you’ve worked at the SFPUC since you started in 1980? Yes — without a doubt.

— John Upton

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