Operation Big Leak. Day #1

So, we decided to face The Big Leak.

The story so far…

Some 3 years ago a squatter was trying to do something with the water connection in our block. It is unclear what exactly was his idea and nobody knows what happened. Squatters do not really boast long memory or situation awareness. Enough to say that the popular knowledge is the guy either broke the valve or punctured the water pipe.

As the water erupted, his best idea was to pour enough concrete on it to stop the leak. And then some dirt&gravel. And then some more concrete. Out of sight, out of mind as they say.

Now, I do not really know if anything of that really worked. But when we arrived here 5 months ago, the leak was happily seeping through the whole sarcophagus, growing every week. And it was already considered long-term problem.

Lately, a neighbor (incidentally the one who caused the whole mess) let me know that the water company people asked him several times recently to fix the leak “or else”. He was quite nervous about that, but somehow he never happened to come to discuss it during infrastructure meetings.

The Plan

So we finally did some guess work, got some materials and assumed three possible scenarios:

A. Broken valve. We have a replacement valve ready, some adapters and temporary bridging flex. The problem may be, if the gap between delivery and receiving pipes prove to be too small. Then we will just screw the valve onto delivery pipe and shut the flow down. This would buy us time to work on the follow-up solution.

B. Broken pipe. We have a 1″ hose and clamps. If the pipe is broken, we will unscrew the valve,  slide the hose over the pipe, clamp it so the leak is contained and screw the valve on again.

C. Everything messed up. We will use a battery-powered metal-cutting saw to cut all the mess out and bridge the pipes with a piece of hose, fixing it with clamps and duct tape. The most desperate version, indeed.

The priority was to contain a leak. After that, all kinds of solutions can be introduced to provide water to the block.

The Action

The beginning was easy. Three strong revolutionary people removed the outer layer of cement. Then we realised that the water is bubbling happily through several places in the pavement. Bad sign. Carrying on with the work, we got to the original valve well and than got stuck. The inner slab of cement apparently was holding the majority of the leak contained. Not enough so solve the problem, but enough to make it extremely inconvenient to get trough it wit the pressure on. Breaking the concrete (and possibly the pipe inside) would takes hours. With growing leak it would make next to impossible any sensible repair.

So we decided to leave the leak uncovered. We will need to mobilize more people and do the scouting in the area, to find the place where the water can be cut off — there MUST be such place. Only when we close the upstream pipe, we will be able to fix the leak.

To be continued…