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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When the main makes puddles, send for the witch!

Well, if you have been reading Carol’s blog, you know we have been in a holding pattern regarding our upcoming trip.  Let me briefly tell you how we got to where we are at…..

On the night before Christmas

I sat comfy in my chair

Watching my football Raiders

win – an occasion so rare.


When from out on the porch

the doorbell did ring

I sprung to my feet

to check on this thing.


T’was a friendly neighbor

so shy and so meek

Dear friend, said he as he pointed outside

your driveway has become a creek!


With haste I went out

to take a quick peak

and lo and behold,

our water main sprung a leak.


I called my Santa plumber

and quickly he came

confirming our worst fears

it would take 3 grand to tame!


We hung our heads low

and retreated in fright

twas not a “Merry Christmas”

at all that night.


There really wasn’t much more we could do.  We were losing about 30% of the pressure down the gutter.  So I only turned it on when we really needed it.  Meanwhile, I quickly hooked up our Bounder and got it set up in lifeboat mode.  We could use its plumbing as a replacement until we could get the leak fixed.

But no one is going to be able to fix it on Christmas because the no one sells the needed parts on that day (or the next, since Christmas was on a Sunday).  But the plumber promised to get right on it Wednesday morning as soon as he finished up another job on Tuesday.

Our water main runs under about 35 feet of concrete in our driveway and side drive then under another 35 feet of concrete in the garage.  Digging up the concrete was not really an option as the leak may not be anywhere near where the water was coming up.  You could easily dig up half the concrete to find the actual leak.  Total replacement of the water main was actually easier and cheaper.  There is a machine (called a Ditch Witch – see title above) that can bore holes for a great distance – more on this later.

On Monday, he calls and says he will not be coming on Wednesday………but will come one day early – Tuesday.  (bet you thought that wasn’t going to be a happy ending!).  And he did.

Mike and his faithful sidekick Fernando (reminds me of the Lone Ranger and Tonto – always out to do good!) arrived just before 10am and began by digging out the water meter by the sidewalk.

At 1pm another guy arrives driving a truck and flatbed trailer that has on it the Ditch Witch. 

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This “tractor” drove into position and using lengths of a special shaft, started boring a hole in the ground.  The shaft lengths are about 5 feet long and every 5 feet, the operator stops and lays another section of shaft in a tray and the machine automatically adds it to the boring shaft and continues the process.

The most interesting part is that the boring head can be steered to go up, down, right, left.  It can handle up to 200 feet of these sections and the driver uses a joystick to steer it.

There is a remote sensing device that acts as a target.  The operator can place this target along the path he wants to bore the shaft.  He can also set the target depth and slope.

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There is actually a readout display showing the location of the head with the depth and angle.  This information is wirelessly transferred back to the operator.

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He looks at his control panel and with his right hand, uses the joystick to steer the head in the direction he wants to go.

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Above you can see the readout (top of the panel left) and the visual display (top of the panel right).

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Above is the joystick used for steering the head.  The actual sections for boring are very strong yet bendable so they allow the head to have a real good range of motion.

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This picture shows the water meter (top center) and you can see the shaft coming into the ground from the right.

What is really neat about this system is that once the shaft arrives at the desired location, the operator can cause it to surface right where the pipe comes out.  Our operator was about 2 inches to the right when it surfaced under the house – well within the needed area.

Then they attached the new water main flex line to the head and pull the pipe backwards through the hole just bored!  It took about 40 minutes to bore the 70 feet and about 10 to pull the pipe back.  Truly a great way to install a replacement main. 

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Above you can see the finished product – the new main comes up through the sill plate and ties into the distribution manifold.

The “Ditch Witch” system (tractor and electronic target) costs $150,000 so not everyone can have one just in case it is needed.  But this is really the way to go!  The final bill was $3,129 which sounds like a lot – but tearing up $8,000 worth of concrete was not going to be an option!.

So now we plan to leave Thursday, a day later than planned.  But this could easily have been much worse and more time consuming.  We look at it as having an extra day to pack for the trip!

Stay tuned for trip updates, probably on Thursday.


~~Sue B~~ said...

Merry Christmas to you and Carol..this really stinks!!..we feel bad for the two of you!

Russ Krecklow said...

Glad you were able to get it fixed so quickly, and with so little delay to your planned departure. What a nifty way to do it, too. Other alternatives would have been very time consuming and destructive. Now you can see how those big oil drilling rigs work, but on a much larger scale.

Alan and Marilyn McMillan said...

WOW, what a job -- good thing you had the trusty MH to help out. Nice poem by the way!

Judy and Emma said...

And as the witch slowly pulled out of sight,

It shouted Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Donna K said...

Oh my, blogville is filled with poets (tee-hee)!!! Glad you got your problem fixed and will be on your way south soon. Enjoy Pismo beach.