The Pignon water system has been a constant battle for me since my arrival. At first it was a pair of hydraulic ram pumps that needed fixing and adjusting. A few weeks ago we got the pumps purring right along pumping record flows, until they plum ran out of water to pump. Apparently the increased flow stirred up all manner of objects setting in the pipe and brought them all down until they completely plugged the pipe.
Now I thought for awhile how I might clear a jam in an 8 inch pipe 2000 feet long. My first solution was to pig the line. That is send an object just smaller than the inside of the pipe along with water flowing behind it as the driving force. We had a wood plug made by a local craftsman, tied a rope to it and tried to launch it with a stick. It didn’t work because there wasn’t enough flow in the pipe.
Plan B: Hook an air compressor up to the pipe and “blow” the log jam up. So at the appointed hour we parked our new well drilling rig with its built-in air compressor within 600 feet of the pipe, ran a hose down the hill and prepared for a show. I crawled on top of the water tank on the downstream end of the pipe and dropped a ladder in to make the connection. But as we drained the tank and I crawled into the 3 ft wide by 4 ft long opening I could see a layer of trash and muck at the bottom of the tank.
The tank stands about 16 ft tall so by the time I crawled to the bottom I was in a pretty tight space with a tiny skylight above. I hesitated before I dropped my sandaled feet into the knee-deep muck. There could have been any number of fish, crabs or leaches but I figured it had to be done.
I began scooping up crud into a 5-gallon bucket and hoisting it up by rope to a boy standing on top to empty it over the outside edge. I dug and dug and dug, eight to 10 buckets in all of empty cans, bottles, gallon jugs, tree branches, rocks and sand. But I left the obvious obstruction in the pipe that filled the tank until the very end – for what I was afraid could turn into a mad dash for my life.
With empty bucket in hand I began pulling old tarp straps, plastic bottles and finally a large chunk of rubber out of the hole. And as the last of the trash came out so came the water. I threw the trash in the bucket and hollered for my helper to hoist it up. Ale Ale Un Ale! The water rose to my knees then to my waist in only a second. I jumped for the ladder and scrambled up right past the bucket. Within seconds the tank was full and overflowing. Everyone gave out a cheer when they saw all the water. And within only a few minutes there was a crowd gathered and bathing in the overflow.
The scene of the water tank. Notice the pile of trash in the foreground, all from the bottom of the tank.
I’ve got two local plumbers, Temelon and Edris whom I work with each time I go down to the water system. They’ve been pretty reluctant to follow my lead to date. There hasn’t been any water in the system for months and so there hasn’t been revenue to pay them. But since I crawled out of that tank all full of mud and smelling like a sewer rat, Temelon shook my hand and Edris gave me knuckles. These two guys have been working with a renewed spirit.
They repaired a door on one of the tanks where the trash had been getting into the system. Actually people have been bathing right in the water tank. Then a few thousand feet down the line people are filling water jugs to drink!
Now we’ve got a new door and a lock on that tank and Temelon started scrubbing and disinfecting the tanks as he gets them secured. A system full of water and functioning is still a long way off. But progress is being made and its progress I think we can all be proud of.Temelon and Edris..