Crews working to find the source of a leak in the pipes running under Ocean Road in front of the Rec Cen are widening excavation of the street to find the exact location of the problem.

David Gonzales, UCSB Facilities Management assistant vice chancellor, said the Goleta Water District — which owns the suspect water main — has hired an outside contractor, Sierra Construction, to handle the repair of the leaking water main, which carries reclaimed water used for irrigation. Vehicle traffic in the section of Ocean Road in front of the Rec Cen has been closed off. Drivers who would normally use Ocean to enter Mesa Road are being detoured to Stadium Road, which intersects with Mesa. Goleta Water District Operations Manager Mike Kanno said the water district outsourced the work because it did not have the larger equipment necessary for the project.

“They’re digging the west lane, but because they have such large equipment, they need [to close] both lanes,” Kanno said. “For public safety, we closed off both lanes.”

The university reported in late January that the road showed signs of water-induced sinking. Kanno said the water district found one of the lanes had sunken a couple of inches in some spots along a stretch of Ocean Road about 100 feet long. Water district crews have not been able to locate the source of the leak since they first started working on the problem.

The water district’s crews put dyes into the water main earlier this month, Kanno said, and have narrowed their search to within 10 feet of the leak.

Kanno said the origin of the leak is difficult to find because of its small size.

“We’re guessing it’s about five gallons [flowing out] per minute,” he said. “If it were 500 gallons a minute, it would break through the ground.”

The water district hopes to find the source of the water seepage by the end of the week if the weather conditions are dry enough, Kanno said.

“It’s difficult to work in rain,” he said. “The hole starts filling with water and you have to pump it out, and where you have rainwater mixing with the leak, it makes it nearly impossible to find the leak.”

Kanno said the university would ultimately decide when to reopen the lanes for vehicle traffic. Gonzales said UCSB is reviewing the road closures on a day-to-day basis.

“We don’t want to open it up for part of the day; it’s too difficult to open and close a road for a day,” he said.

Gonzales said crews are working to quickly resolve the problem.

“[Sierra Construction is] trying very hard to conclude this project,” he said. “They’re experts; they have a lot of equipment. No one wants to get this fixed more than the Goleta Water District.”