NEEDLES — Depending on availability of components, work was expected to continue this week on repairing a section of water line that burst Jan. 14.
The failure of the 16-inch pressurized line running between a city well field near the Colorado River and reservoirs atop the hill near the Needles Rodeo Grounds washed tons of mud and debris onto Interstate 40, closing eastbound lanes for hours as crews began undertaking emergency repairs and cleanup.
Water deliveries were interrupted to most of downtown Needles, prompting the city to set up an emergency water station at the El Garces to hand out bottled water to residents without service.
Anecdotal reports indicated the pressure wave from the initial failure caused several smaller ruptures in pipes all over the city.
The water system failed again the following day, when re-pressurizing the main line was blamed for blowing out a second, smaller pipe entering a distribution manifold at the city yard near River’s Edge Golf Course. City Manager Rick Daniels was on-hand to explain.
“This is where all the wells come together,” he said. “So wells, 14, 15 and eight all come here. The water is then forced into the main that goes up the hill, that broke out yesterday.
“The pipe was damaged because of the hammerhead that went through the system and when we began to pressurize this around 2 p.m. about a 10-foot section of the pipe blew out.”
Many readers will remember loud bangs and violent shaking when opening a water tap on the relatively tiny pipes in older buildings, especially hotels and apartments. Imagine that in a 16-inch pipe. That’s essentially what Daniels referred to as a ‘hammerhead.’
“Up on the hill we’ve got a temporary segment where the pipe rusted out,” he continued. “We put a saddle over the top of it. We found out the rest of the pipe was weak and was leaking so we got that done today (Jan. 15) also as a temporary fix.”
Once the smaller burst pipe at the city yard was replaced plans called for pressurizing the main line, filling the reservoirs, then stopping flow from the wells so the larger pipe, running through a 24 inch concrete sleeve at the edge of the Lilyhill Drive overpass above Interstate 40, could be pulled out and replaced.
The old pipe was metal; the new pipe is expected to be HDPE (high-density polyethylene).
“One thing we’ve got to do is bleed the lines of any air that’s in them or else we will create a pressure change which is the kind of hammerhead that blows the pipe,” Daniels added.
Residents are being asked to conserve as much water as possible until repairs are completed. The city is keeping bottled water on hand in case of any further outages.
Distribution points may include the city administrative offices on Third Street, the El Garces or, on weekends, at Set Free Church at 404 F St. The city has been using its automated emergency telephone alert system for notifications, including times and locations of bottled water distribution.