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Monday, Jan 30, 2023
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Shake and Rattle but Hold the Roll

The 1994 Northridge earthquake upended life in the Valley. So much so that the hospital closest to the epicenter – Northridge Hospital Medical Center – was without water for several days. The city is taking precautions to ensure that doesn’t happen again. The facility is one of the first Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers to benefit from a pilot program installing earthquake-resistant pipes to ensure clean drinking water in the event of a disaster. “We felt really good that the city sees the hospital as a community asset,” said Saliba H. Salo, chief executive of the hospital, owned by Dignity Health of San Francisco. The earthquake resistant ductile iron pipe is made by Kubota Corp., in Osaka, Japan, and has been in use for decades in that country, which like California is prone to earthquakes. The pipes rotate at their interlocking joints, said Craig A. Davis, project manager for DWP. “The difference is in how the joints are cast,” he said. About 6,500 feet of 12-inch diameter pipe is being installed on portions of Reseda Boulevard, Etiwanda Avenue, and Cantara and Strathern streets around the hospital. The work started in October and should be completed by the end of the year. It will cost more than $5 million and is by far the largest segment in a $10-million pilot project in five neighborhoods. A smaller length of pipe was first laid on Contour Drive in Sherman Oaks in 2013. The pipes cost $22.06 a foot compared to $14.06 paid for normal iron ductile pipes, but Davis said that needs to be put in perspective, since material costs generally only account for 4 to 8 percent of pipe replacement, which requires digging, shoring and repaving. The hospital was chosen for the project since the neighborhood’s pipes had already been budgeted for replacement and because of its proximity to the fault that caused the 1994 earthquake. DWP plans on using the pipes in areas critical to the entire water system, as replacing all 7,200 miles of pipe with Kubota’s products would be cost prohibitive. While the hospital will benefit from the pipes, they may come with new responsibilities, such as serving as a water distribution point in the event of a major earthquake. “As an asset, we have to be able to say ‘We serve,’” Salo said. — Rosie Downey

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