December weather blamed for busted Parkrose water main

Take a look and see why innumerable gallons of pristine Bull Run water gushed down the ramp from NE 122nd Avenue up to NE Sandy Boulevard – for hours …

Lanes of traffic on the NE Sandy Boulevard overpass are rerouted, while Water Bureau workers try to locate the source of the water gushing up from the street.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Hard freezes, and warm, wet thaws, wreak havoc on in-ground plumbing – just ask the repair crews at the Portland Water Bureau (PWB), who say they’ve been scrambling, more than usual, to fix broken pipes.

“We tend have more water main breaks this time of year,” conceded PWB spokesman Jimmy Brown. “Usually we’ll have ten or twelve – but so far this month, we’ve had more than 30.”

Two high-power pumps temporarily fight a losing battle – trying to de-water the excavation site near the broken pipe.

That’s the reason for the torrent of water that flowed down the NE Sandy Boulevard on-ramp from NE 122nd Avenue on December 26.

But, fixing the problem was complicated, because an old “valve gate” in the street was fixed in the “open” position. “Our workers thought they’d closed the valve, but water kept filling the hole they’d excavated – even with two water pumps running.”

After persuading the valve to close – shutting off water service to about ten businesses in the area – crews were able to find the source of the problem: A burst water main.

“They found a vertical rupture in a 16” cast iron main,” Brown told East Portland News. “We initially didn’t think we’d have to shut off services, but ended up closing off water to eight businesses in the area while we made repairs.”

PWB workers watch the water finally recede, so they can make repairs on a water main, which had been ruptured by rapid changes in temperature.

Looking forward to the new year, Brown commented, “It really depends of the weather. If we have more freezing weather and thaws – we’ll have more breaks to repair. But, we have great crews, standing by, to keep your water flowing.”

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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