***Update: The city of Gulfport have put out a “Precautionary Boil Water Notice” to residents of the affected buildings in Town Shores.
A local fire protection inspector testing water pressure for the Manchester building at Town Shores on Wednesday, November 2 “probably shut off a fire hydrant too quick and the pressure burst the [nearby underground city] water pipe,” said Nick Bunaisky, maintenance supervisor for the age 55 and over retirement community in southwest Gulfport on the shores of Boca Ciega Bay.
As a result, a divided street flooded, seven residential buildings housing about 1,000 residents and the clubhouse were without water for about two hours.
It’s commonly called the “water hammer” effect or hydraulic shock. It occurs when a valve closes suddenly causing pressure in a water pipe.
The result at the condominium complex’s south finger at a traffic island near its Celebration Park was a hole in a city-owned six-inch ductile iron pipe the size of a man’s fist along with a 16-inch crack.
And, “a lot of water,” said Bunaisky. “It was just bubbling up out of the ground pretty much everywhere [near the turn-around in the road] and was flooding both sides of the street.”
The inspector works for Critical Systems Solutions of St. Petersburg, which supplies fire protection equipment to the majority of the condominium buildings in the complex, said Bunaisky.
The road area affected is near the clubhouse and serves as the main entryway to the parking lots of the following seven condominium buildings: Embassy, Diplomat, Windsor, Buckingham, Nottingham, Manchester and Lancaster.
“I was on the roof of the Lancaster [building] when I saw it,” said Bunaisky. From there, he called the condominium office with his cell phone.
Condo officials notified the city and residents of the complex at 1:48 p.m.
“We sent out an email blast and posted on Facebook,” said Roger Bell, Association Manager for the Town Shores Master Association. From there, each condo building’s board of directors got the message out to unit owners that they were going to be without water during the repair.
City workers used a backhoe, hand shovels and a gas-powered generator to pump leaking water away from their work area while creating a 20-foot by 20-foot hole to locate the pipe, which was found four feet underground. For a while, they thought they may have to cut into part of the road.
“We have to just dig to locate it,” said Don Sopak, director of public works for Gulfport as he watched the scene.
Once the broken iron pipe was located, city workers used a Cutquick saw to remove the section containing the hole and crack, then custom cut a 30-inch PVC splice pipe to fit the area and bolted two specialty 15-inch clamps into place at the seams to make watertight connections.
“We go down, fix it and move on,” said Sopak. “It’s just what we do.”
Water service was restored at about 4 p.m.
Maintenance workers then filled in the hole, scraped dirt off the road and planned to return on Thursday to spread dry dirt over the area to finish the job.