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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

Design, Building Errors Cited in Tank Rupture

November 18, 1998

WESTMINSTER — Design and construction errors caused a water tank rupture that sent a 6-foot-high wall of water slamming into a townhouse complex and fire station in September, according to a report released Tuesday by Westminster officials.

But because the tank was built 30 years ago, the city has no legal recourse, officials said--neither the manufacturer nor the contractor is still in business, and the statute of limitations for such action has long since run out.

The tank's foundation was missing critical "hairpin" steel bars to enable the concrete walls to withstand the pressure of five million gallons of water, according to the report by the Pasadena office of Montgomery Watson, an engineering firm hired by the city to investigate the Sept. 21 accident.

The wall of water injured six people, destroyed 10 homes and temporarily displaced more than 30 families. City officials estimated the damage at nearly $30 million.

Architectural drawings made after the tank was built in 1967 indicate that the hairpins were present, but the engineering company could find no evidence of their having been installed.

Also contributing to the rupture was the misplacement of a reinforcing steel tendon in an inner section of the circular foundation, the report stated. It concluded that those two elements allowed cracks to form, and water seeping through them over the years caused corrosion of the steel.

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