“I got a call Friday because Torrey was out of water, and they needed help starting their chlorinator,” explained Greg Johnson, a Circuit Rider with RWAU.
Torrey had installed a pressure station with a gas chlorination treatment system, in case there was an interruption from the springs that usually supplied the town’s water. The town called for assistance because the chlorination system had been installed before the current operations specialist came to work at the system.
Unfortunately, starting the chlorinator didn’t fix the supply problem.
“They were supposed to be getting 450 gallons per minute, but they couldn’t make any progress filling the tanks,” Johnson said. “I knew they had a problem then.”
Torrey was forced to go on a boiled water notice, and they struggled for several days to try to restore water. The community tried shutting off water service to residents at night and eventually the restaurants and hotels were forced to close.
“There were a lot of angry people,” Johnson said. “The businesses had to shut down because they didn’t have any water.”
The next step was to begin inspecting the transmission lines that connect the town to its water sources. The eight miles of pipe runs up a mountain and across a canyon and is only accessible by ATV. Johnson contacted Jake Wood, another RWAU Circuit Rider, and they began surveying the line’s airvac and blow off valves. They began finding rocks in the pressure release valves along the line, and eventually located a major leak.
“We found a leak at one of the blow off valves,” Johnson said. “It looked like about 200 gallons per minute was running out of the barrel and over a cliff. So, that was a lot of water just running into a canyon, and it was difficult to spot.”
As they started to repair the pipe, it revealed even more problems.
“We turned off the water above the leak but the water kept draining from the leak instead of the valves we’d opened to drain it,” Johnson said.
By chance, the Circuit Riders had a pipe inspection camera in one of their trucks. They ran the camera down the line and found rocks plugging the line.
“If he wouldn’t have had that camera, we wouldn’t have been able to locate that plug,” said Dustin Oyler, the Operations Specialist for Torrey.
The rocks created a blockage that was restricting flow and creating more leaks. As the water pressure increased above the plug, pipes and seals would fail and create more leaks. Once the leaks and plugs were located, the crews began clearing rocks from the lines and repairing the breaks.
“By midnight, we had the water going,” Johnson said.
Rural Water’s assistance was critical to getting the water restored quickly, and it’s the kind of effort that Oyler has come to expect from RWAU.
“If I have any kind of problem, I can get a hold of Greg and he’s there pretty quick,” he said. “It’s really beneficial for me.”