Snow and cold have delivered a one-two punch to city crews, first with a 16-inch snow just before Thanksgiving that caused streets to remain ice-packed for weeks, and then with the fourth water line break in as many days on Monday.
Monday’s water line break of a 16-inch cast iron pipe of a 90-year-old line sent water gushing down Jefferson Street and into nearby commercial buildings.
Patrick Edmiston, owner of the co-working space Articulate, 324 Jefferson St., said he was at lunch when employees called him and told him he’d better get back to the business.
“They told me there was a tidal wave of water coming toward the building,” he said. “When I got there, the whole parking lot was flooded and they were working to keep the water from coming through the doors.”
Sand bags were quickly placed outside the door, and employees were able to bail the water out and mop it up before extensive damage occurred.
Fort Collins Utilities and Poudre Fire Authority crews were notified about 6:30 a.m. of water coming up through the pavement near Linden and Jefferson streets, according to Andrew Gingerich, director of water field operations for Utilities.
He said a crew dug up the area and found a small leak coming from a hairline fracture. As crews were getting ready to place a clamp on the fracture, the pipe burst.
“The guys heard a pop and that small hairline fracture turned into more than a leak with water gushing down Jefferson,” he said.
Gingerich said crews were able to turn the water off, impacting an estimated dozen businesses as well as City Hall.
He said two water line breaks occurred on Fort Collins Utilities lines over the weekend and one happened Friday. Another break occurred Friday on a Fort Collins-Loveland water line on Harmony Road.
He said the types of water line breaks they have been seeing are caused by freeze-thaw cycles. Frost builds up in the soil above the pipes, putting pressure on the pipes. When the temperature warms, the soil moves and can’t support the pipe, causing fractures in the pipes.
He said the breaks over the weekend, on residential streets, cost $7,000 to $10,000 to repair. However, the cost to repair the Jefferson Avenue break is expected to reach $20,000 to $30,000 because of the repair needed and the size of the hole crews had to dig to access the pipe buried 4 feet under the pavement.
Edmiston said the big break occurred about 1 p.m.
Gingerich expected it would take until about midnight for the crew to pump out the water from the hole, clean it out, repair the line by cutting out the damaged pipe and replacing it with a sleeve, and then fill in the hole and repave Jefferson Street. Traffic was reduced to one lane in the break area.
Edmiston said there was not much damage to his business thanks to his employees working quickly to remove the water coming into the building and city crews that responded to place sandbags in front of his business.
“I’m a little worried how long this project will take, but no one was hurt and all we really lost was a day of productivity,” Edmiston said.
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