Scores of utility workers struggled Wednesday to plug leaking valves in Westwood after Tuesday's ruptured water main spilled more than 20 million gallons onto Sunset Boulevard and portions of UCLA grounds.
Calling it an "extraordinary expense," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said damages to the campus are expected to run in the tens of millions of dollars with athletic facilities such as Pauley Pavilion, which underwent major renovations in 2012, and the John Wooden Center among the damaged facilities.
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officials said the iconic Sunset Boulevard is expected to remain closed between Veteran and Hilgard avenues through Friday to allow time for draining and complex repairs as crew members worked to stop additional leaking from valves, which could not be fully closed.
"We promise you we will be here 24 hours a day until we get this repaired," Marcie Edwards, DWP's general manager, said at an afternoon news conference near the site.
The break occurred at a "Y" shaped juncture where two aging pipelines -- one installed in 1921 and another in 1936 -- meet, officials said. The department will not know the cause until all the water is drained.
The estimated 20 million gallons of water lost as a result of the break is about 3.6 percent of the city's average daily water supply of 550 million gallons.
"This is one of our biggest ruptures," said Jim McDaniel, senior assistant general manager for DWP, comparing it to the Coldwater Canyon break in Studio City in 2009. "It is a major event for us."
A more than 90-year-old valve for the equally aged pipeline may give the department trouble. If the water -- still spilling at about 2,000 gallons per minute -- cannot be stopped at the valve, the department will inflate a plug inside the pipe to halt the flow.
"We have a lot of infrastructure that is reaching its 100-year anniversary," McDaniel said.
McDaniel indicated DWP will work with UCLA to go through the department's standard claim process.
DWP sees roughly three to four water main breaks per day, down from an average of 15 per day five years ago, officials said.
Los Angeles City Councilmen Paul Koretz and Herb Wesson introduced a motion Wednesday calling for a report on the water main break. The motion seeks details of the damage to the area and information on what could have been done to prevent it.
Tuesday's water main break comes after a similar series of breakdowns in 2009 in the San Fernando Valley, incidents that renewed questions about the city's aging water-delivery system. Asked what was different about Tuesday's incident, Wesson cited the "optics" of having it occur near UCLA.
"We have two big schools, this is one," Wesson said. "This is an affluent area. A lot of damage has been done."
Earlier in the day, UCLA officials said it was still unknown whether the water-damaged wooden floors of Pauley Pavilion, which was expected to be "out of commission for a while," and the John Wooden Center could be salvaged.
However, "in some of the buildings, there is less damage than we anticipated," Block said during a news conference from inside UCLA's partly flooded parking structure 4.
When asked by a reporter whether the city or DWP officials would pay for the cost of the damages, Block responded:
"That is certainly who is responsible," he said. "We are sort of the victims here."
While DWP crews worked on Sunset Boulevard west of Hilgard Avenue in Westwood, actual repairs had not begun as of Wednesday evening because crews were unable to fully close valves on the riveted steel pipes.
"There's too much water coming into the pit to begin repair work," said utility spokesman Joseph Ramallo, adding they've dug a pit around the breach but can't fully access it yet. "The valves are stuck."
At UCLA, campus crews and contractors worked through the night to remove water from buildings and clear debris. Large blowers were being used in the Pauley Pavilion, the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, J.D. Morgan Center and the John Wooden Center, which were all affected by the break.
As of Wednesday, water remained in parking structures 4 and 7, said Kelly Schmader, UCLA's assistant vice chancellor for facilities management. The lowest level on parking structure 4 was still completely submerged with water up to the ceiling, he said. They were pumping out about 4,000 gallons per minute and were limited by carbon monoxide buildup to how much they could pump. He said they expect to have the water completely out of those garages by Friday.
More than 900 people, including students, staff and visitors, have indicated their vehicles are in those structures, about half of which are believed to have been fully submerged. All vehicles, regardless of whether they are submerged in water or not, will be towed to a yet to be determined location after the draining is complete, officials said.
Scott Alexander, operations manager of UCLA's student union, said he parked his 2006 Mazda 3 Tuesday on the bottom level of parking structure 4.
After the water main ruptured, he was busy placing sandbags outside the union to keep the water from coming in. He didn't realize until he received an email at 4 p.m. that day that his car was in jeopardy. By then, he said, he wasn't allowed to retrieve his car.
"I keep thinking it is a joke," Alexander said, adding that he hopes to get some kind of compensation for the loss of his vehicle.
He said he borrowed a friend's car on Wednesday to get to work but wasn't sure how he would get to work next week.
UCLA summer camps and the Fernald and Krieger child care centers were closed on Wednesday. Otherwise, summer session activities continued largely as normal.
"Certainly it is fortunate that we are in summer session and have a fraction of the students on campus," said UCLA spokesman Ricardo Vasquez, noting students are in finals this week.
Motorists who use Beverly Glen to access their homes were told they could do so with proof of residency, officials said. Commuters are encouraged to carpool or telecommute when possible or to use Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard or Olympic Boulevard as alternate east-west roadways.
Fire officials said they were able to rescue five people from the parking structure on Tuesday, and no injuries were reported.
Staff Writer Dakota Smith contributed to this report.