Water, water everywhere, no any drop to drink

By Meg Olson

A water main break on Easter morning dumped almost 200,000 gallons of water down the hill from Wicklow Place onto Elm Street, running through basements and gardens.

“It ate away at that hill and the silt moved its way down,” said district manager Dan Bourks at the water district’s April 12 meeting. “It’s the most damage I’ve ever had to deal with.”

Two homes on Wicklow Place had damage to carports and basements, while on Elm Street three yards were damaged. Bourks said he was working with the risk pool that provides the district with insurance and with property owners to remedy the damage, which could run over $80,000.

Bourks said he felt damage to properties below the break was exacerbated by the poor design of the culvert that drains the subdivision above. “Yes, it was a break. It’s our water and we have to take responsibility,” agreed commissioner Scott Hackleman, “but the majority of that damage was due to a poor culvert design, and there could be damage from that in a bad storm.”

Bourks said damage from the break could also have been minimized if they had been able to locate the break more quickly. He said he received a high flow alarm at 2 a.m., followed by a low level alarm at the tank – signs of a break. “I went looking,” he said. It was a phone call at 3:30 a.m. from a resident with no water pressure that sent him in the right direction, and they had the water off by 4 a.m. Bourks said reports of low water pressure or water in the ditches is a critical tool for locating breaks and he encouraged property owners to call him any time they experience these signs. The district office recording lists all after hours reporting numbers.

In response to a letter from Campbell McClusky who suggested the district should have sensing equipment to help them locate breaks, Hackleman said in practical terms the best that would do would be to indicate a pressure drop in a quadrant of the Point.

“It would make more sense to put our resources into the distribution infrastructure,” Bourks said. “It’s made a real difference since we replaced those three miles of older water mains.”

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