Problem quickly addressed
A deep pond of slush appeared at the corner of Seventh Street and Elk Avenue Sunday evening, February 3, after a water main line broke, spilling water into the street and forcing Crested Butte town officials to shut down the busy intersection.
The break occurred at approximately 6 p.m. and was discovered almost immediately. According to Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker, damage from the break was minimal and no structures were flooded.
A similar break in January 2006 resulted in at least one house and several outbuildings being flooded, with some people reporting up to 18 inches of water in their houses.
Parker says the pipe has been fixed and water has been restored to nearby residents. The town temporarily shut down water to five homes and the Visitors Center on Tuesday, February 5 while it fixed the problem.
Almost 675,000 gallons (250 gallons of water per minute) were lost while crews worked on the break. David Jelinek, water plant operator, says old age and ground settlement caused the cast iron pipe to break. The pipe had a “beam” break, which means it cracked all the way around the pipe.
Parker says the extent of the damage will be unknown until spring, when the town can evaluate the street for asphalt damage. The cost of the incident will remain unknown until all charges are submitted. Parker said the cost could be extensive because of the overtime pay involved and price of materials.
Jelinek says the town is continually working to upgrade the water and sewer system to prevent such incidents, but also admits water line breaks cannot be avoided. “These things just happen,” Jelinek says.
Parker agrees that infrastructure is a priority for the town, but says it takes time to address a system that has been “long ignored.”
“We have been addressing it incrementally, but it takes money and manpower,” Parker says.
Manpower was certainly critical in addressing this break, according to Jelinek, who says a team effort helped resolve it quickly. Several employees in the public works department worked through the night and all day Monday and Tuesday. “Everyone pitched in. We couldn’t have reacted so fast if it weren’t for them,” Jelinek says.