Subzero Temperatures Cause Water Main Break At Richland County Fairgrounds

A water service main deep within the Richland County Fairgrounds compound gave in to the extreme cold and ruptured on Monday, Jan. 15.The torrent went undiscovered until the following day.

It was a federal holiday so there was no one in the fairgrounds office to notice the drop in water pressure or water gathering on the midway. The fairgrounds were not completely deserted. Staff were in the event center, one of the buildings located on the south side of the property, cleaning up after an event over the previous weekend. The ruptured pipe was in a utility room on the back side of the bathrooms between the Sons of Norway and the 4-H food booths, on the north side of the fairgrounds. They had no way to see the destruction that was ensuing. City staff were alerted to a 500-600 gallon per minute leak occurring early on Monday afternoon, knowing a water break was probable, but were unable to locate the problem. The water department staff were out until 11 p.m. that night to find the leak, but found none. Tuesday morning, city staff were back on the hunt. Finally, a water department staff noticed a plume of steam rising from the fairgrounds as they drove past. Fairgrounds staff were alerted to the problem when the city water department notified Josh Johnson, County Public Works, of the water leak.

Johnson shut off the water, searched the building, and soon found the room and the problem. A ball valve in the water main had broken, causing a pipe to rupture. Water had flooded the entire building, dousing a washer, dryer, water heater, and a number of outlets and light switches in water. It flowed out of the building into the grass then flowed further north to gather into a decent sized pond at the horse hotel before freezing. An indeterminable amount of water had flowed onto the midway but the three nearby drains had kept the water from gathering too much before freezing.

At the end of January the total cost of the destruction was still unknown as the known damaged valve and pipe needed to be replaced before the rest of the line could be tested for damage and the fairgrounds staff were still waiting on parts. The City of Sidney estimates that over 600,000 gallons of water were lost in the incident.


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