Downtown McMinnville was the site of a gusher Tuesday night when a large water main burst sending 420,000 gallons of water down into the Depot Bottom area in 30 minutes. A smaller pipe burst Wednesday morning.
The first pipe to break was 12 inches wide. It ran from the water tower at Farmers Market to Riverfront Park where the city’s old treatment plant was located. The area of the break was behind Foster and Foster Realty on the corner of Spring Street and Colville Street.
According to McMinnville Public Works director Bill Brock, there are two theories about why the pipe broke — age and placement.
“We don’t know exactly why it broke,” he said. “This was a 70-75-year-old pipe. It could have been age. When we dug down to the pipe, it was sitting on top of a large stone. We feel like settling of the ground on either side of the stone bent the pipe causing it to split in the middle. We’re just guessing either way.”
Despite what caused the break, the city lost an estimated 420,000 gallons of water from the water tower that holds 750,000 gallons. At the city’s current rate for water, approximately $1,650 was lost.
Brock says he has heard rumors that city residents were in danger of being without water, but that is not true.
“I’ve heard a rumor that we were in danger of being without water, but it would take more than one water line breaking to cause that,” Brock said. “The city has about 6 million gallons of treated water stored. If we were to shut down our system today, the city has six days of water in the air. That’s not counting what we have in the ground.”
Nearby residents did feel a drop in water pressure that improved as soon as workers were able to shut off the valve and stop the water.
“If you open up a 12-inch water line, someone will lose pressure,” said Brock. “When we shut the valve off, everyone’s pressure went back up. I got a call from a citizen at about 5:30 p.m. We got the value shut off in about 30 minutes.”
Once repaired, crews flushed the water lines from five different fire hydrants in an effort to remove air from the lines and ease any pressure in the pipes.
A 6-inch pipe break was reported Wednesday morning just down the street from the larger one. Brock says the pipe could have cracked the night before.
“The pressure of turning the water off and on from a larger 12-inch pipe can sometimes cause problems with smaller ones,” said Brock. “We flushed the lines to try to prevent it, but it could have cracked last night and didn’t open up until this morning.”