Last summer was my first as a project engineer for a mechanical contractor. I learned quite a bit, including how to handle a broken water main on a Friday afternoon.

We do a lot of work for telecommunication hubs in the Portland area. These hubs may exist as small, unoccupied buildings full of switching gear or larger facilities. A good customer called us on a Friday to investigate a communication hub in a residential neighborhood. Their water meter was spinning out of control with no obvious reason. The building was an old church that had been retrofitted for equipment and included a restroom and a small office. By isolating the main between the meter and the basement, a leak underneath the basement floor was determined. An old 3-in. galvanized water line had given way and was spilling water into the ground.

There was potential to stick our client with a lot of overtime that weekend to dig up and repair the main. Both the HVAC equipment and restroom required water.

The quick fix that got us through the weekend was to run a garden hose from the water meter to a hose bib on the side of the building. An adapter and hose fitting were installed easily upstream of the meter. We back fed the domestic cold-water supply through the garden hose and hose bib. This supplied non-potable water via the reduced pressure zone backflow-preventing device to the HVAC equipment. It also allowed temporary use of the water closet. Finally, this allowed everyone, including our union labor, to knock off that Friday and dig up the broken line the following week.
Tom Hudson, LEED AP
Harder Mechanical
Portland, Ore.

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