Pipe break causes massive water loss

The cause of rupture remains unclear

 

December 7, 2023



On Nov. 29, in the early morning hours, while most of Cathlamet slept, a Rosedale resident called 911 to say his water pressure was almost gone. A little later, another caller living nearby reported low water pressure. Then, dispatch received a call from a resident living at the intersection of Columbia Street and SR 4 on the east end of town.

He said there was a major leak nearby. Water was flowing across the road and flooding his yard.

“We do not have an explanation for why the pipe ruptured,” Mayor David Olson said. “It’s not a brand new water system. Pipes get old.”

Earlier that day, a contractor had been working on a project in that very spot to improve water pressure in the area, but because the flooding didn’t present itself until several hours later, it is believed to be unrelated.

Around 1:22 a.m., on that frigid night, the Town of Cathlamet Public Works Superintendent David McNally and members of his crew got their first look at the problem.

“Once we saw what it was,” McNally said, “there was no way our pumps were going to keep up with it so we ended up valving off that little section.”

The water receded as the pumps continue to run. When the crew could get a good look at the pipe, they found it had not only ruptured but it had bent away from its former path.

The break was fixed by noon that day.

It turned out that so much water moved through the system before the repair that one of the town’s reservoirs was nearly dry.

“We lost 500,000 gallons of water from the Kents Bridge reservoir,” Olson said. “Our largest reserve tank got down to two feet. We lost 90 percent of the water in that tank.”

That’s when the Town of Cathlamet sent out a request asking the community to preserve water.

Olson said at the time that it would take 24 to 48 hours for the reservoir to return to an appropriate level.

Later, a precautionary boil water notice was sent to a large swath of customers in the town but mostly out of an abundance of caution.

In truth, only a small section of the community was at risk; they were the residents who had lost water, and as McNally explained, most of them appeared to live east of the Columbia Street/Boege Street line or in the upper Rosedale area.

When the water sample came back negative for bacteria, the boil water notice was rescinded.

According to Olson, the matter was unrelated to another recent water pressure issue that caused damage at some homes earlier last month.

“It was unanticipated and certainly unfortunate,” he added. “Every water system in the world has these, we’ve had the misfortune to have a couple within a month. It’s not a surprise that these things happen, but it was a particularly large break.”

“We are lucky and blessed to have a very capable public works crew and department that was on it immediately,” Olson said. “They got a very large break under control in a number of hours.

I’m very grateful to the good crew we have and the superintendent and the utility workers who did everything to get this under control.”

 

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