Within minutes, a water main break turned a schoolyard playground into a lake on Tuesday afternoon.
The break occurred around 2 p.m. along a line that will supply water to houses to be built in the Cardiff Glen subdivision.
The gushing water bubbled to the surface and rushed downhill to a low area in the middle of the Sopris Elementary School playground.
“The guy just walked out to the middle and it was up to his thighs,” substitute teacher Jody Jordan said of a water worker.
“There was excitement, the kids were really excited,” school principal Howard Jay said. “We were a little nervous. I thought (the break) was on our grounds.”
Fortunately, the water did not enter the school and damage to the playground appeared to be minimal. The kids were able to stay in school and recess was held around the newly formed pond.
Jay said the flood came his attention when fifth grader Meg Waibel came in from recess and told the school secretary, “There’s a lot of water on the playground, and Mr. Jay probably needs to know it.”
“We probably caught it about 10 or 15 minutes after it started,” he said.
Luckily, workers from the company that installed the pipe were meeting in a nearby work trailer.
“We got it shut down within minutes,” said Tom Stevens, owner of RMI and developer of Cardiff Glen. RMI was the company that installed the pipe.
Glenwood Springs water and wastewater superintendent Buddy Burns said he thinks he knows what caused the flood.
“It probably blew the thrust block off there, but they won’t know until they dig down,” he said.
Stevens said he was surprised the pipe broke, because it went through three phases of testing before the water was turned on. And while he agreed that the problem could have been a faulty thrust block, he cautioned it was too soon to rule out other possibilities.
“It could have been anything,” he said. “It could have been a faulty valve or a cracked pipe. There was some kind of weak link.”
The pressure to that section of the water line was turned on about a half hour before it broke open.
Stevens pointed out that it was lucky the line broke when it did. If it broke overnight, the school could have been flooded.
After the flow was stopped, Stevens’ crew pumped much of the water out of the playground and into a nearby water retention pond.
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