The muddy, rusty-colored water bubbled and gushed from the pavement of S.E. Foster Road at Lafayette Street on Wednesday, August 17.
It stopped traffic and turned heads during the afternoon.
Portland Water Bureau (PWB) workers cordoned off the area at about 1:30 pm, after workers at the US Post Office's Creston Station notified Portland Fire and Rescue that water was flooding the intersection which some mistakenly call S.E. 51st Avenue, because it's one street west of S.E. 52nd Avenue.
But, before PWB crews could dig up the pavement to find the problem, underground utility locaters first had to arrive and mark out lines to prevent accidental disruption of other buried services.
'They first began a 'throttle down' process of the water main, so they could get a sense of the leak, and ascertain the problem,' explained PWB spokesman Jimmy Brown. 'When they excavated the area, they uncovered a cast-iron pipe that had been in the ground since 1922,' Brown told THE BEE. 'At first, workers believed the pipe had split.'
But, upon further investigation, Brown said the leak that sent water gushing through the asphalt surface of Foster Road was the result of a lead cap, or plug, popping off a T-section of pipe.
'It wasn't atypical; we do have some very old piping here in Portland,' Brown observed. 'We anticipated we'd have this repaired by 8:00 pm; the challenge was, that we had to replace two pieces.'
Whenever PWB crews make an in-street repair and find lead pipe or parts, Brown added, those have to be replaced with appropriate materials - in this case, ductile steel parts. 'So the final repair will take about four weeks. Our crew put a concrete casing in the hole; then backfilled. After that has settled, a PDOT road crew will return to repave the affected area. We believe there may be some sidewalk repair needed there, also.'
Compared to cities like Houston, Brown remarked, Portland's water system is relatively trouble-free. 'Houston has had as many as 700 water main breaks in a single day - due to the weather.'