Yesterday afternoon found me staring shocked at a geyser of water erupting forth in the basement. The water was exploding into the air a good three feet. My first instinct was to try and smother the flow of water with my hands, but this, obviously, didn’t do much more than completely cover me in water.
In seconds that corner of the basement was filled with water. The sump pump engaged, but it couldn’t nearly keep up. At best, it was pumping out a quarter of the amount of water coming in.
I grabbed my cell phone and quickly called the last number on my ‘recent calls’ list: a guy named Mike.
“Hello?” he answered
“Mike? This is Mike DiDonato. I’m in trouble.”
Early on Sunday I stopped by Lowes to buy a few pipe wrenches. There was a small water leak in the basement but nothing overly complicated. The only trick was that it was just barely upstream of the water meter. This was not a major concern as there’s a second valve just upstream to where the water meter is.
I cranked off that valve and the leak petered out. The only other issue was that I’d have to disconnect the water meter and water meters have small ‘no tampering’ wires. So I called the city.
This was my first interaction with Mike. Mike works for the Meriden Sewer company. I told him about needing to break the tampering line. He said that was no problem and that they’d send someone out tomorrow to replace it once the leak was fixed.
Once I had permission I went down into the basement and started taking apart the line. First, I took off the water meter. No trouble there.
Next, I took off the leaking pipe. No trouble there.
Finally, I put my pipe wrench around the last broken piece – an elbow. As I applied torque to the system the pipe UPSTREAM of the valve shuddered briefly… and then a burst of water fired out. I immediately remembered Mike’s last comment to me on the phone: “call me if you get into trouble.”
“What happened?” he asked
“The line upstream of the valve blew as I was trying to get the pipe off”
“How bad is it?”
“bad. I’m going to need the water to the house turned off.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
As I waited to hear back from Mike I double checked the sump pump. It just wasn’t pumping fast enough. I started wondering what I would possibly do when the water reached the furnace and the water heater… Maybe I could go ask the neighbors for another sump pump?
From the kitchen, you could hear the water surging in the basement.
About 10 minutes passed, during which I frantically ran around lost. Not having any idea what to do. It was then that I saw a truck pull up.
Mike stepped out. He had curly hair and glasses. His jeans and shirt were worn. He looked like just the right person for this job.
“Let me see how bad it is.”
I brought him to the basement.
“let’s go see if we can turn if off. Do you know where the water turn off is?”
I had no idea. We walked to the front of the house along the edge of the street.
“have you ever seen any sort of metal water cap when mowing the lawn?”
“I have not”
“oh man. It could be anywhere. I’ll probably have to go to the town records and see if I can find the plumbing schematic for the street so we can find it.”
And then, I saw it. It was the edge of a metal cap covered mostly in overgrown grass.
“Wait… Is that it?”
“You are a very lucky man.”
We took the top off and he put a long wrench into the 4 foot deep hole. He tried turning it but was unsuccessful.
“flashlight?” I offered
“yeah. we might be in more trouble. Sometimes these are so full of dirt that we have to get a pressurized water truck to come and blast the dirt out.”
I ran to get him a flashlight trying to calculate in my head how long I had before the water heater and boiler were both submerged in water. When I got back he stuck the flashlight into the hole and put the wrench in again. Mike quietly asked for divine assistance and gave it a short turn clockwise.
“You are a very lucky man today. That never works so easily.”
We walked inside the kitchen; there was no sound of water coming from the basement. Sure enough, the water had been turned off.
Mike helped me sweep most of the water into the sump pump hole. Then we took a look at the pipe.
“This is bad,” Mike said, “if the pipe is this rusted here… it’s probably at least this rusted running all the way out to the street. You’ll probably need to have the whole line replaced”
Mike and I chatted a bit more about plumbing and the types of problems he encounters on his day to day job. Then I thanked him profusely for his fast action and sat down to figure out what on earth I should do now.
And that’s still kind of where I am. I spoke with my Boss and told him that I might not be into work today as I try and clean up this mess. First things first, I suppose I’ll buy some water for the house.
After that… things will presumably get a bit more complicated.