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Water use cut off after blowout to main line

By Sherrie Williams
A blow-out in a 16-inch water main in the 800 block of Johnson Road left hundreds of homes and businesses without or with very little water for several hours Tuesday into Wednesday.
Just before 1 p.m. a four-inch hole blew out of the 16-inch main sending a pressurized stream of water approximately 40 feet into the air.
The force of the water rained rocks from the road base own on adjacent property where the rocks pelted a home and two vehicles sitting on the property.
“It was like getting a 24-inch rain fall with golf ball size hail in 20 minutes,” said City Manager Jerry Flemming.
The water and rocks busted the back window out of two vehicles and cracked the windshield in one of them. Several rocks about 2-inches in diameter could be seen laying on the sloped porch roof of the residence. Rocks and pebbles were reportedly all the way to the back of the property. Flemming said at this point there is no evidence of damage inside the home.
“A 16-inch water line doesn’t fail very often but when it does you remember it,” sad Flemming.
He said to make the repairs they had to turn off several water valves and the water tower north of US 287 was drained.
City crews waited on utility line spotters to locate any other lines in the area of the water line before they began digging to the main.
A gas line was located near-by and once the water main was exposed the crews had to work in a small area between the gas and water line.
Flemming said the gas company crews inspected their line to make sure it was not damaged.
City water maintenance crews as well as sewer, and street crew members worked on the line as water continued to bubble out.
Fllemming said as long as they had water still flowing out of the pipe the water was not contaminated. However, once the 287 water tower, which is where the water traveling through the lines was from, was drained the flow stopped and the city was required by TEQC to issue a boil warning.
The boil order remains in effect until the water is tested again and they get a clean report. However, the city is required to wait at least 24 hours before retesting.
”Only those customers who did not have water pressure between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Wednesday need to boil water. The water lines were flushed and the water quality is most likely acceptable. However, samples were taken which need to be tested and the test results will take 24 hours. For this reason, the boil water notice will remain in effect for at least 24 hours,” said Flemming.
In addition to residents west of North Jackson and north of West Magnolia, customers affected included Iowa Park High School, the dental clinic, Subway Restaurant, K-K Foods, the rest areas west of Iowa Park, Woodbriar Apartments, residents along Johnson Road, and the area north of Highway 287 and west of F.M. 368. City of Electra and Wichita Valley were not affected. Also, Cryovac was not affected.
Flemming said there were 10 to 15 crew members on the site from the time of the incident until approximately 7 a.m.
“They worked in waist deep water all night. We tried to alternate them out so they were only in the water a couple of hours at a time, several times throughout the night,” said Flemming.”
The crews were working in a hole that was approximately 12 feet deep and 30 foot long.
The water main is made of steel and concrete and Flemming said a weak spot in the aged line gave out. During the repairs of the original hole a second leak occurred about 10 feet away.
Those who worked on the line had worked 24 hours straight when they completed the job.
By morning workers from all city support services were assisting in one way or another.
Because of the dangers of working in disturbed soil that deep, members of the Iowa Park Volunteer Fire Department were on site much of the night also.
Iowa Park police officers assisted with traffic until the street could be closed.
Flemming said he spoke with IPCISD Superintendant Steve Moody frequently through out the night because they had to make a decision about closing the high school.
However, the water was flowing again in time for classes to be held.
Back at city hall, numerous calls were received until they closed, then the police dispatcher fielded hundreds of calls throughout the night.
As of press time, water was flowing back through all the water lines.