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Old May 7th, 2014, 11:03 PM
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Default Under Pressure

All hell was breaking loose on the city plumbing truck radio.

I was on lunch break, nomming down a hot dog and chasing it with a coke when the chaos started. It was a Saturday, and at Wilson Park across town from my location, FunFair was in full swing. The park is crowded with hordes of city residents and I was only too happy to be fixing a minor irrigation leak, at least ten miles away at another city park.

But, the call was for ALL park department plumbers to come to area 1 of Wilson, so I buttoned up my worksite with a safety fence, loaded up the tools and headed out there.

On the way I gleaned from radio traffic that the Junior League - a city women's group who organizes the FunFair and other such stuff - was visibly upset that the sprinklers in area 1 came on for no reason, soaking the revelers in that area. Hence the call for all hands on deck. Can't let these ladies be mad at us, after all.

Driving along I am thinking, "why doesn't someone just shut the irrigation water off manually until the FunFair is over?" On arrival I found out the answer to that - to do so would also shut off the water to the restrooms in area 1, this antiquated system was using the same supply water as the restrooms did.

As I listened to the boss and some of the senior parks plumbers theorize about the issue, I was looking over the situation in the little water closet where all the control solenoid valves for the irrigation system were located. This indeed WAS a antiquated system, because typically on newer irrigation installs these solenoids are under ground, control valve mounted, at point of use for the different zones. Their electrical control wires traveled under ground to the NEMA boxes where the actual controls for the system are located.

This had none of that, the control box was here in the water closet. The solenoids had rubber tubing going under ground to each hydraulically operated control valve for the different zones in this setup. No electrical wires under ground at all. Water pressure from the supply operated the underground valves, this being controlled by the solenoids here in the water closet.

This means distance from the water closet to the zone valves out in the field was variable, but even the shortest run was at least 40 yards. That's a long way to have tubing underground, and the resulting pressure drop for that is why this type of control was long ago abandoned in irrigation design. It's just not reliable and too many things can go wrong with it, making it difficult to diagnose as well.

But the problem seemed to be over, the boss was shooing us all out of the water closet and locking the door. The sprinklers hadn't come on again, see. And they had only run for a minute or two anyway, then shut themselves off. Therefore the problem must have fixed itself. Perhaps some air in one of the control tubes was burped out? He declared the problem solved anyhow, and told the Junior League ladies area 1 was good to go again. Then, after hob-knobbing around with a few of them for a bit, soaking up the complements of what a genius he must be for fixing this problem, he split. Along with the rest of the park plumbers who weren't assigned to FunFair anyway.

But I stuck around, I had a hunch. Just a niggling little idea that this problem wasn't solved. I had heard one of the ladies say in passing this happened two other times today. And, knowing the boss didn't really do jack shit to fix anything, I felt it prudent to stick around for a bit.

So I sat in my truck and finished my lunch break, a good observation distance away from the restrooms of area 1 where, in between them, the water closet existed.

The area began to fill up with picnickers and revelers. All was well and happy again in the world of FunFair.

I sat and watched for some time, not really waiting for anything or expecting anything, just sitting and watching. But daylight was burning and I still had the leak at the other park to finish addressing, so I reached for the keys to start the truck. Then it happened.

The sprinklers for area 1 came on again, soaking the folks.


Last edited by Lord of Mirrors; May 7th, 2014 at 11:11 PM.


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