Water leak a bad break for Rifle during drought year
Repairs are expected to be wrapped up today after a 6,000-gallons-a-minute leak in the city’s water system was discovered Sunday morning.
The city stores its water in 3 million gallon tanks, which are constantly monitored to detect leaks. Rifle typically uses between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons per minute.
“We were losing water into (Rifle) Creek through the night,” said Rifle public works director Bill Sappington.
The leak was detected by a Rifle water systems operator at 5:45 a.m. Sunday.
Sappington summoned a crew, including Kip Costanza of Stampfel Construction, to search the system and isolate the leak. They found it in the culvert that runs underneath Whiteriver Road and Rifle Creek, just east of the Rifle Fire Station.
On Tuesday afternoon, cars were being detoured away from the section of road that runs directly over the creek. Whiteriver Road is a county road, but the city maintains the stretch from 10th to 21st streets, where the break occurred. It’s the precise spot that a flash flood washed out the road on July 19. Crews had recently repaired the damage by laying a fresh layer of asphalt where the road crosses the creek.
After crews located the initial leak, another search on Monday, the Labor Day holiday, revealed an additional leak in the same spot. Sappington ordered the water shut down so crews could repair the pipe. Nearby businesses, the fire station and four homes had their water shut down Monday and Tuesday.
“That inconvenienced those people and those businesses, but it also inconvenienced the entire town,” said Sappington. Because the city lost so much water during a drought year, everyone was at risk.
The loss of water “caused me be to become very concerned,” he said. “With water levels this low, we were stressing the system. Water pressures were dropping.”
Fire safety was in question without adequate water and sufficient water pressure, plus the fire station was cut off as well.
“This was a unique emergency,” he said.
Sappington said engineers are working to isolate and replace the run of pipe that was leaking. The pipe should be reconnected and the road should be open by today.
“The city, county and volunteer fire department really worked together to fix this problem,” Sappington said. “I apologize for the inconvenience, but I really appreciate the citizens working with us on the road closure. There’s been great compliance on behalf of the residents, businesses and motorists regarding this situation.”
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