• Utility Worker Mistaken For Gunman


    JUNCTION CITY – A fifth grader’s report of a person wearing a yellow slicker and armed with a gun near campus on May 18 turned out to be a utility locating company employee seeking a sewer leak.
    The worker was part of an emergency crew that responded to a report about a leak at the intersection of 13th Avenue and Rose Street. Public Works Director Jason Knope presented the following incident details at a recent city council meeting.
    After receiving the initial report near 7am, city employees arrived on the scene and determined that the leak was a 16-inch sewer pressure force main leak and not a water leak. Force mains are pipelines that convey wastewater under pressure from a lower to higher elevation with the help of a pump. The pipe was first installed in the 1960s.
    The repair crew was immediately mobilized and the public was notified, as were state and local agencies. The utility crew arrived on the scene by 7:20am and spent several hours attempting to locate the break in the pipe.
    “Unfortunately, our maps weren’t correct,” Knope said, making the pipeline difficult to locate, with the break found by 9:15am.
    The broken pipe was completely exposed and ready for replacement by 11:30am, shutting down four pump stations and impacting four others. The stations were offline from about 11:45am to 1:30pm. The pipe was replaced with most of the excavation hole filled by 3:30pm. The road was then repaired and opened to traffic by 11:30pm.
    The cost of the incident was estimated at $33,918, which included replacing 10 feet of 16-inch sewer force main line and repairing 3,000 square feet of roadway.
    In response to the false gunman report, the JC School District requested to be notified about future pipeline breaks.
    “It wasn’t on school property, but it definitely impacted the school,” Knope said. “Now we have expanded our contact list to include key personnel within the school, whether or not it is on school property,” aside from calling the front desk.
    The utility locating company was also contacted about holding better conversations with folks near schools during locating emergencies, reminding employees to “think like a fifth grader when you’re in those areas, as things get blown out of proportion rather rapidly,” Knope said.
    The incident was reported to the Department of Environmental Quality, but fortunately the contamination was contained onsite without affecting local wetlands. The DEQ was pleased with the city’s efficiency in handling the incident.
    This being the third incident within 18 months, the city may need to address the prevention of similar spills in the future since such sanitary sewer overflows are technically prohibited. The DEQ could take enforcement action should it decide the city is not being responsive to the issue.
    Also at the meeting, the Council decided to offer the city administrator position to Interim City Administrator Melissa Bowers. Bowers said she would consider taking the position pending contract negotiations.

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