Journal of the San Juan Islands


Labor Day water leak disrupts otherwise brilliant holiday weekend

Journal of the San Juans Editor
September 3, 2012 · 7:36 PM

Town of Friday Harbor employees work on patching a hole on Spring Street early Sunday, where a portion of the town's aging waterline was removed after it cracked the night before water and sent a flood of water streaming down the roadway and forced the closure of a number of businesses on the south side of the street. Water was restored to those businesses by 7:30 a.m. Sunday / Scott Rasmussen

Labor Day weekend? you bet.

At least if you work for the Town of Friday Harbor water department.

Town water utility employees worked from early evening Saturday through Sunday morning to repair a portion of the town's aging water line after a crack in the 70-year-old underground system of cast-iron pipes sent a torrent of water gushing down Spring Street, forcing several businesses on the south side of the block, between the Palace Theater and the Coldwell Banker building, to close for the night.

San Juan County Sheriff's deputies, firefighters and town workers converged on the scene shortly after water began flooding down the south side of the street, outside of Haley's Bait Shop and Grill, at about 7 p.m. That section of street was cordoned off and traffic re-directed as town workers began shutting off pressure to the waterline and searching for the source of the leak.

"It was a 15-hour all-nighter that those guys pulled to get it all put back together," said town Administrator Duncan Wilson, who stumbled onto the scene of the flood while en route to Haley's, hoping to catch the 7:30 p.m. kickoff of Saturday night's University of Washington football game. "I turned around the corner and the main event was just starting."

Water had been restored to that area of town by about 7:30 a.m., Sunday.

While the amount of water lost to the Labor Day leak is unknown, Wilson said the town has as much as a million gallons stored in its primary water tank and that Trout Lake, source of the town's water supply, is well stocked.

The pavement on south side of Spring Street is another matter.

Wilson said pressure from the leak caused a section of the pavement along the south side of the street to rupture and buckle. That area, where parking spaces on the street's south side are located, remained cordoned off with cautioned tape, as of Monday.

Replacement of the town's aging water transmission line, which, Wilson said, dates back to the 1940s, has been a topic of discussion among town officials for several years. It runs from Trout Lake to the Wold Road water treatment facility, then along San Juan Valley Road and into town.

Several studies targeting eventual replacement of the transmission line have been completed by the town, Mayor Carrie Lacher said. How to finance the project and where, and when, to begin has yet to be determined.

"It's definitely an aging system," Lacher said. "We've all had Spring Street on our minds for awhile."

Lacher applauded the response by town workers and of the many neighboring agencies, such as firefighters, deputies and the county, that pitched in as as well.

"What was most impressive was to see the guys from across all different departments just dive in and to do what they had to do to ensure the safety of the town," she said.



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