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The City Journals

Midvale water main break disrupts morning routines, school day

Feb 10, 2020 02:45PM ● By Heather Lawrence

The Midvale Public Works crew dug a deep trench and worked in muddy water to fix the water main break at 8000 S. State St. (Courtesy Midvale City)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Midvale Public Works crews scrambled to repair an early morning water main break at 8000 S. State St. on Jan. 15. Many residents had low pressure for hours; a few had no water. The break affected three Midvale schools west of State Street, forcing Canyons District to cancel classes at those schools for the day.  

“We got a call about 6:30 a.m. from the Dish Network business at 8000 S. State St. We sent someone to check it out. There was an obvious water leak, with water coming up out of the ground. Then we called out a repair crew and shut the water off to work on it,” said Glen Kennedy, Public Works director for Midvale City. 

“The majority of residents who were affected had lower pressure, which was back on within a couple of hours. A small [residential] area around the leak did not have water while we shut it off for the repair,” Kennedy said. 

Schools in the neighborhoods west of the leak were without water. “We work very closely with the Canyons District. The first call the schools got that morning was from the Mayor [Robert Hale]. From then on, we were communicating with them throughout the day,” said Laura Magness, director of communications for Midvale City. 

Canyons District made the call to cancel school at Midvale Middle School, Midvale Elementary and Copperview Elementary. Middle school students were excused to walk home or ride the bus; elementary students needed to be checked out by parents or older siblings. 

“We got the word out to families as quickly as possible. It’s a disruption when schools can’t function as they normally would. But we got a lot of good feedback from families [on how it was handled]. We don’t have plans yet on whether to make up the day. It would be a board question,” said Kirsten Stewart, spokesperson for Canyons District. 

Canyons District took extra precaution and brought “bottled water and portable toilets… to schools as an emergency measure,” per their social media.  

Tammy McCleary lives in Midvale and works in the office at Midvalley Elementary, which is east of State Street. “My husband called to tell me that we didn’t have very much pressure. I didn’t notice anything when I got ready, so I guess I used the last of what was in the pipes,” McCleary said. 

Fortunately, Midvalley Elementary’s water supply was unaffected. But McCleary said they got a lot of calls from concerned parents. “We got so many calls. Some of our students’ siblings go to Midvale Middle, and they were sent home. People were wondering if we were closing, too. It was the call of the day,” McCleary said. 

Joyce Bird is a longtime resident of Midvale and lives east of State Street. She noticed the water pressure issue when she got up in the morning. 

“I noticed the toilet wasn’t refilling and the sink didn’t have much pressure. I started calling neighbors up and down the street to see if it was happening at their houses. One neighbor said his water had come back on, but without much force,” Bird said. 

Bird and many of her neighbors didn’t have to wait long for the service to be restored. Bird’s water was back on and working within an hour, she said.  

Magness said most of the people who called Midvale City that morning thought it was their personal pipes that had frozen. “They were kind of relieved when they learned it was a city issue.”

Crews worked on the water main throughout the day. At 5:50 p.m., Midvale City posted on social media that the break had been repaired. Schools that had been closed resumed as scheduled on Jan. 16. 

“I would say by 7 p.m. we could pressure the line back up, and we had everyone fully back on,” Kennedy said. 

Kennedy has been with Midvale Public Works about a year. He attributes the break of the main transmission line to aging infrastructure and weather conditions.  

“With the cold weather, there’s a freeze and a thaw that happens, and the ground moves with it. Proactively replacing the pipes is something I’d really like to implement,” Kennedy said.  

“We are continuously improving our water lines. For example, over on Princeton (Drive) we’re replacing water lines right now. It’s an old system,” Magness said. 

Magness said she didn’t have numbers on how many residents were affected, but said that the pipes at the break site are a main transmission line and run a lot of water. Both Magness and Kennedy commended the crew on their hard work.  

“The crew was awesome. They worked their guts out under tough conditions,” Kennedy said. 

Magness posted pictures on social media, including one of the “muddy” crew where she asked the public to leave positive comments. “There were 120 positive comments from the public thanking the crew for their work,” Magness said. 

Kennedy and Magness both said that one challenge of the fix was there were communication conduits above the broken pipe, so the crew had to dig a deep trench to get down to the leak. Once they got in, they pumped the excess water into the storm drain.   

The road the crew dug up will take longer to repair. “The [road fix] is a temporary patch. Orange traffic cones will be left up until UDOT can come in during warmer weather to fix the road,” Magness said. 

Magness said what stands out to her from the experience was how people worked together. “Residents were so supportive and understanding. UDOT ensured that the lights were adjusted so traffic ran smoothly. We appreciate all the extra work the school district had to do. UPD came to help direct traffic and make sure that kids who were walking home from school crossed safely,” Magness said. 

“This was a very impactful break. I was so impressed with our community,” Magness said.