Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, April 28, 2006
      ( 4/28/2006 08:26:00 AM ) Bill S.  

WATER WOES – Little over a month ago, when the weather started showing the first tentative signs of spring, Bloomington city workers started putting up work signs on the street where we live. Within days of putting up said signs, a layer of asphalt was removed from the street, but it was weeks before we saw any further work on the road. Last week, however, the work crew returned in earnest: with large pieces of concrete tunneling and an excavator. Our street is getting a new storm sewer.

They'd been moving up our street all week, and yesterday the excavator reached the front of our house. Got home from a review early yesterday – about 3:30 – and as I pulled the PT Cruiser carefully into the driveway around the earth moving equipment and 'tween the work horses, a gravelly-voiced worker headed my way. Umm, he apologetically began, we were gonna be without water for a little while. While digging the trench for the new drain, the excavator had hit the pipe that was delivering H2O into our house. Apparently, all those little JULIE flags that are supposed to tell ya where the underground utilities reside aren't always that reliable. (Something for all you homeowners to keep in mind if you ever go diggin' in your backyard.) We would be without water for an hour or so, I was told, while they replaced the piece of broken pipe.

Went in and told the wife what I'd just heard, and we went about our business for the next hour or so. Finally, the gravelly-voiced worker knocked on our front door, sending our dogs into a tizzy, and (after I'd put the pups in the study) he asked me to turn on a faucet. I'd hear a gust of air, he said, but then the water should come out. So I went into the kitchen, pulled on the one-handled sink faucet and heard the promised sputter of air. I did not, however, see any water following it.

Told the g-vw still waiting on our front porch that nuthin' was coming out, so he went back to the hole where a burly girl in a bright green vest was holding onto a long doohickey that was apparently turning on the water. Burly girl gave the handle a second spin, so I dashed back into the kitchen, only to be disappointed a second time. Still no water was coming from the faucet, but as I stood there, I suddenly realized that I was hearing the sound of water rushing somewhere. Our basement steps are right off the kitchen, so I followed the sound. In the basement, I found a fountain of water gushing into the section where we have a bunch of stored boxes and mother-in-law furniture. At the point in the wall where the water pipe comes out and bends to the left for the meter, the water was shooting out. I quickly stumbled upstairs to tell the crew to shut the water off.

Turns out that, in addition to breaking the pipe by the street, they'd also snapped it about six inches from the house. Whoever installed the copper water piping – years before we bought the house, I might add – used soldered pipes in the ground. That's a big no-no, I was told, but "you'd be surprised what they used to get away with." (Somehow, I don't think I would be . . .) The pipe had snapped at the soldering point, but to replace it, they were gonna have to install a whole new solid piping from the street to our house. One small problem: the place where the piping comes in is smack dab beneath our concrete front porch.

I stood outside and watched the crew talk amongst themselves for a half hour, joined about fifteen minutes later by a guy in a City of Bloomington Water Department polo shirt. Asses were chewed; excuses were made. Our house is close to ninety years old, so it's probably not surprising that this kind of mishap would occur, but it's still a major pain in the ass. To reinstall a new pipe, the city is gonna have to dig beneath our front yard (using a piece of machinery called a Ditch Witch), break through the wall at a point away from the porch and install new piping into the basement. For the night, water was provided through a large rubber hose that ran above ground and into the backyard spigot. Didn't know you could send water into the house through the same faucet you use for your garden hose, but apparently you can. Wasn't sure I wanted to use this as drinking water, though, so while the city workers performed this task, I drove off to the neighborhood Kroger's and bought two one-gallon jugs of Ice Mountain. (The hose, we were told, is off-meter, "so use as much water as you want tonite!") For dinner, we ordered Chinese (General Tso Chicken for me; sweet-&-sour chicken for Becky).

We made it through the night without too much inconvenience, and, as I type this the following morning, the workers have returned and have just finished trashing the day lilies in our front yard garden. Water's back off, but I snuck in a quick shower before they got here and had plenty of bottled water left for a pot of coffee, so I'm doing alright. The basement floor's dried up and none of the stored boxes appear to be damaged, but a headboard from an old waterbed looks a bit warped. The workers have had to move and reshuffle a bunch of crap to get free access to the wall, but that part of the basement has always been a cluttered mess, anyway.

Will we have full running water coming into our house by the end of the day? Sure hope so, but from the way things have been playing out so far, I'm leaving room in the day for a late afternoon Gunga Din trek to the grocery store . . .
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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