Thursday, May 16, 2013

This past Tuesday morning we arrived at work to a significant frost.  We always have a frost job list for such mornings, and we regularly take advantage of these delays to complete and fine tune staff training. It is usually a low stress start to the morning when these frosts occur. This past Tuesday may have seemed relatively stress free early on, but little did I know that was about to change.
Soon after we sent a few bodies to get started I received a message from one staff member that there was, and I quote, “A lot of water down on 5”. I knew right away the only way there was any water down on 5, would be because we must have an issue with the irrigation system. I must admit that I have had many irrigation issues during my career, but I was not prepared for what I was about to see. I knew we had a big problem when I was still up near 3 green/4tees and I could see an absolute lake in the valley. Once I got down there, I realized we did indeed have a lot of water “down on 5”, but as unbelievable as this sounds, the problem was actually on 6!
These pictures don’t do the scene I witnessed justice. We don’t know exactly what time it was when the failure of the pipe occurred, but we do know that almost 700,000 gallons of water was pumped into the valley overnight between the pipe failing, and us getting the system sectioned off. When you run into a problem like this, it is imperative to know every inch of the irrigation design off by heart, this is no time to pull out drawings trying to figure out how to close the right valves to shut off the problem area.
Keeping as much of the system pressurized is imperative as we have many seeded areas, new sod, sprigs and transplanted trees we need to get water to regularly, so just shutting down the entire system is not an option.
You know you have an issue when the leak is in 6 fairway.........and 5 approach is flooded!
After we got the area sectioned off from the rest of the system, we could do nothing but wait for the water to recede on its own, this took a full 24 hours. The following morning we started to dig…………well, more specifically I sent Steve, to start to dig.
After 5 hours of trying to expose the problem pipe, I realized that there was no way we could do it with shovels. Unfortunately we do not have a back hoe in our arsenal, so a couple phone calls later I found a mini excavator that we could get on site shortly after lunch.
I had no idea how big a problem we had until we finally got things exposed. What I anticipated was a section of pipe that might be between 1 and 2 feet long that needed to be cut out and replaced, turned out to be and entire 20 foot length of pipe that failed from end to end.
Some people might not be surprised we had a problem when you see all the rock we are trying to grow fine turf on. Having rock up against plastic pipe is not advisable, but this area was most likely river bed during the last ice age melt, and significant rocks are located below the surface.
This is the side of the trench we dug to get at the irrigation line. Some might wonder how we are able to grow any grass at all.
As I got to “play on the Mini Ex”, Kyle and Steve got into the trench and did all the dirty work.  12 hours later we had the repair complete. We let the new glue joints dry and cure overnight and pressurized first thing this morning. We back filled in short order, but the actual restoration of this area will take some time. The area we dug up to complete the repair is approximately 2 feet wide by 26 feet long, but the area disturbed by all that water pumping underground is huge.  We will do our best to get this area back in shape in the next couple of weeks, and lets hope the rest of the season is uneventful for the turf department, I don’t think my sanity can take much more.
Here is the scene 24 hours after the water was shut down, but before the dig to repair has been started. The main pipe failure is left under the sink hole but as you can see, substantial damage to the surrounding are will need significant restoration.
              Finally, damaged pipe is replaced and the failure to the pipe we removed is very obvious.

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