2020 Impact Awards: Thanksgiving Weekend Water Main Break Crew win the Effective Workforce Team Award

This year, we received 33 team nominations totaling 222 individuals. Nominators took the time to tell us about their amazing SFPUC colleagues and partners. They thoughtfully shared why they nominated these impactful teams. Their written nominations also give us a view into other departments and areas we may not be familiar with at SFPUC. We hope reading the written nominations will inspire you as much as they did us.

Congratulations to all the team members of the Thanksgiving Water Main Break Crew. Thank you for having such a profound impact at SFPUC and going above and beyond to serve San Francisco residents! 

Team Members*

Timothy C. Alemany

James E. Biggins

Phil Broussard

Jonathan T. Carpenter

Vincenza Chiodo

Robert Costello

Jesse I. Dan

Richard S. Gonzales

Vincent Harris

James V. Kazarian

Warren Lowe

Tony Lucero

Patrick McLoughlin

John Mullen

Richard J. Nave

Adolfo Padilla Rios

Paul Pese

Tony Preston

Hector M. Rodriguez

Ricardo Zaragoza


  • Steve Ritchie, Assistant General Manager – Water Enterprise

During Thanksgiving week 2019, San Francisco temperatures dropped, and the water distribution pipes experienced a highly concentrated number of main breaks.  Eighteen major main breaks and 10 other leaks and disruptions occurred in one week from November 28 (Thanksgiving Day) to December 5.  Many of the breaks and leaks occurred during the Thanksgiving weekend, requiring significant off-hours and nighttime support from City Distribution Division’s (CDD) emergency response crews.  To respond to all these water service interruptions, 54 staff from CDD worked over 900 off-hours during this period to quickly assess situations, repair pipes, restore water service to customers, and prevent major property damage and disruption to traffic and the community. Some staff worked more than 12 hours per day, and some worked three or more days during the holiday weekend. 

 One of the major main breaks occurred on Thanksgiving night on a 14-inch diameter high-pressure Auxiliary Water Supply System (AWSS) pipeline on Jackson and Mason adjacent to the cable car track.  Water from the rupture of this high-pressure pipeline undermined the cable car yoke and threatened to cause significant damage to the tracks.  CDD crews responded quickly,  safely shut off the water, and alerted other City agencies as well as street repair crews so the damage could be assessed and repaired immediately.  If not for the swift and effective response by the CDD crews, this damage could have cost San Franciscans millions of dollars to repair and may have disrupted cable car service for months.

 This sacrifice of personal time during the holiday exemplifies the crews’ dedication to meeting the SFPUC’s mission to provide high quality, efficient, and reliable water service to our customers.  They understand the significance of water service disruption, and they respond immediately, safely repairing and maintaining our assets with high quality workmanship.  The teamwork needed to respond successfully to these emergencies so many days in a row demonstrates CDD’s effective workforce that is highly trained, skilled, and focused to work safely and efficiently to provide the highest quality water service to our customers.  Response to a single main break costs about $5,000-15,000 in labor, but damage from a rupture that is not responded to quickly can cost thousands to millions of dollars in property damage, and threatens life safety, public health, and the environment. 

 *The 20 staff nominated listed above represent the 54 staff who worked off-hours during the entire week, covering the additional shifts as long as needed to complete the work.  Mention needs to be made of all CDD and SFPUC staff who indispensably prepare and support the construction crews through safety and emergency response training; dispatch and communication services; materials procurement; planning, scheduling and cost reconciliation; automotive, carpentry, machining, and other craft support; asset management; and human resource development.  This commitment to organizational excellence and reliable service and assets through emergency response readiness exhibits the excellence, service, and teamwork of these crews and the entire CDD staff.