Ruptured East County water main worries residents

Folks living on the eastern edge of Portland worried whether the water main break on NE 162nd Avenue would cause a sinkhole …

We saw water gushing — not seeping — between cracks in the street and curb along NE 162nd Avenue for nearly a city block.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
So far this winter, the water supply system in East County hasn’t experienced the ruptured water mains and massive sinkholes we’ve seen in other parts of the metro area.

But, some residents along NE 162nd Avenue, just north of NE Glisan Street, wondered if it was their turn to see the pavement in front of their homes crumple and sag into the ground, on January 28.

Patrick Healy and his son Daniel Owen Healy first noticed the wet pavement – on a very cold, windy dry evening in East County.

Patrick Healy says he, and his son, were working on a car when they noticed something odd. “About 8:30, my son said, ‘Dad, there’s water out in the center of the street’. It’s not raining, so I didn’t think anything about it. Then, I noticed the other side of the street was wet. Since then, it’s been progressing and getting bigger.”

Looking back a little later, Healy says he saw water coming up between the curb and the street. “The area where the water came up kept growing. We couldn’t find the number for the water company, so we called 9-1-1. They said calling this in was a good thing to do.”

Water streams up from the pavement
We arrive at 10:45 p.m. and find that water is not only coming up through the center of the street, but also burbling up where the roadway meets the curb for the length of a city block.

Officials and firefighters say they can’t do anything other than keep calling Rockwood Water District ‚Äì and keep people off the street in case it caves in.

A Gresham firefighter said when they drove into the parking lot off the street; they saw the water coming up turn from clear to murky brown. “We called the Rockwood Water District office,” said a firefighter, “but so far, we’ve only reached an answering machine.”

By 11:00 p.m., Gresham police officers had cordoned off the block, fearing the water might erode the soil under the roadway and create a sinkhole.

When we returned on January 30, crews had filled in the hole and were repaving NE 162nd Avenue.

Rockwood Water crews dug up the street the following day and repaired a water main line. “The main cracked all around a joint,” explained a worker at the site. “It happens this time of year.” But, no comment on why all the emergency responders got, when they called, was voice mail.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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