Quick Action Brings Milwaukee County Water Crisis to an End

July 22, 2015
Recently, business and government offices in the western Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, Wis. were closed due to a broken 12 in. water main. Affected buildings included the Milwaukee County Children’s Court, the trauma center at the Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, factories and other businesses.

In order to locate and repair the breach, contractors excavated three 50- to 75-ft-long trenches. Officials believed a water valve had failed, but as the first day of the crisis wore on, county public works repairmen could not locate the source of the problem in the labyrinthine county water system.

Meanwhile, one million gallons of water was flooding a nearby power station causing a brief power failure. The Wauwatosa Health Department placed surrounding office buildings under a second day of boil water advisories, and portable toilets and bottled drinking water were brought to facilities in the area.

The trauma center at Froedtert was closed for several hours on the first day of the water main break and hundreds of clinic appointments had to be canceled. Concern over public safety and health grew, and frustration mounted over the lack of running water and the absence of an operational wastewater system.

Help sought and found
The Wanasek Corp., a local water services contractor, was working with the Kaelber Co., a mechanical contractor, on the project placed a call to Severn Trent Services in Alsip, Il.

Specifically, at 7:00 a.m. on the second day of the water main break, John Wanasek placed a call to Brad Tolman, services manager for Severn Trent Services in Alsip, Il.

By 12 :00 noon — and after a two-hour drive from the Chicago suburb, three technicians from Severn Trent had arrived in Wauwatosa.

To tackle the problem, they brought the Hydra-Stopping and the Hydra-Tapper systems, In order to isolate the faulty valve, a triple Hydra-Stop had to be performed.

To accomplish this, the technicians used three separate Hydra-Stop line stop machines equipped with aluminum bullet head stoppers designed to stop water flow under pressure in a matter of seconds.

Stopping the flow
With millions of gallons of water already lost, the technicians recognized the need to prevent even more treated water from being wasted as fast as possible. They bolted Hydra-Stop fittings equipped with the necessary temporary gate valves to the water main. Using the Hydra-Tapper, they tapped the water main and the Hydra-Stop machines were then simultaneously used to isolate one section of pipe from three different lines.

After water flow was stopped, the faulty valve was replaced and two new valves were cut into the main to handle any problems that could occur in the future.

The Hydra-Stoping system’s advanced design eliminates complicated field operations, enabling repairs in one-third the time required for other conventional methods. According to Wanasek, the responsiveness of the Severn Trent Pipeline Services team was impressive. “I was very pleased with their quick mobilization and the expertise they demonstrated on the job,” Wanasek said. “Their lead person was on vacation but he came in just to help with this emergency. And he stayed on the job until it was done.”

About the Author

Eric Risch