A water main leak discovered Tuesday morning tested city workers with the ultimate game of hide and seek.
It took more than a day, but by 2 p.m. Wednesday the leak was narrowed down to a 16-inch pipe between Northwood Middle School and Cascade Park. Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said finding the leak was like finding a needle in a haystack.
“Or like finding where water is leaking when there is nothing but water. It’s not easy,” she said.
The city was alerted to the leak Tuesday morning when residents began calling with reports of low water pressure. That sent city crews on a hunt for the leak with the focus on the St. Jude area.
The water main break caused a ripple effect that canceled classes for both Ely Elementary and Northwood Middle School, which are in the vicinity of the leak. Classes resumed for students Wednesday morning.
Siwierka said low pressure in some neighborhoods may have unnerved some residents, but at no time was there an issue with the actual water. There was no need to issue a boil alert and the water in the towers was not affected.
“There was a lot of sediment kicked up by the storm that may have given some residents cloudy or brownish water. In those cases, we just told residents to run the cold water until it runs clean,” she said.
The real work came in finding the leak itself.
“This is done by trial and error,” Siwierka said. “There is no way to measure where the water is coming from, but by turning valves on and off, rerouting the water service and checking the water pressure. If the crews see a dramatic change in pressure, they are getting closer to where the leak is located.”
Once the leak was found Wednesday afternoon, Siwierka said it was isolated, the valve was turned off and water service was rerouted for customers on that line. But it’s in a hard-to-reach place between the school and park, and it could be a few days before it is fixed.
“It’s a 16-inch water line that was put in we’re guessing around 1920,” she said. “It’s hard to say if it broke because of the storm or because the city has an aging infrastructure. Water main breaks are common in a city because many were put in at the turn of the century or in the 1920s and 1930s.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.