Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Possessed Pluming: How to Exorcize Water Pipe Daemons

“There’s a new pond forming in the driveway.”

We first heard those words close to two years ago, while we were still living our comfy little lives in suburbia. Hippylady called to tell us that a pipe had burst below ground and she would need help to get it fixed. My first thought was that she was mistaken, and that it was the t-junction beneath a riser. After all, there were no water lines beneath the driveway. Of course, I was still thinking like a suburban housewife at the time.

So, Da Man took the next day, which turned out to be a Friday, off of work. We packed up the kids and the tools, arranged a cat-sitter, and headed north for a long weekend. My brother-in-law, who shall be henceforth referred to as The Cajun, met us there with his own teenagers in tow and few spare shovels. Between us all we could get it knocked out in a day and have the rest of the weekend to barbecue and catch up.

The daemons in the water pipes had other ideas though.

Upon arrival we found that the break was indeed in a driveway, it just wasn’t the main driveway where people park. You see, we have just enough land that we have a service road that goes right down the middle of the property. It was under this service road that the pipe, one of three water 'mainlines’ hard burst... 5ft down. It was about then that our bright shiny shovels didn’t look so impressive anymore.

It took the rest of the day to dig out the line and locate the ruptures, which there turned out to be many of. The pipe was over 40 years old, and was falling apart. It wasn’t even the right pipe for the job. One of the many ‘gifts’ bequeathed to us by the former owners, who had installed all of the utilities in the first place. (this last is important to note for later reference)

Unfortunately, the ground was still mostly frozen and replacing the pipe at that time was not feasible. So, Da Man decided to patch said pipe, and replace it in the summer, when he would be able to dig up the entire line. So the patch was put on, the dirt was thrown back in (but not tamped down), and this took the entire weekend. Much cursing and many blisters later, we loaded the kids back up in the van and headed back down to Phoenix.

A few months later the ground thawed and I began planning the excavation of the water pipe ruins, not realizing they were haunted. As if on cue, Hippylady called to report that the pond had not only returned, but had become a headwater. There was now a small stream running down the service road. She failed to mention the new lake that was forming on the lawn by the front gate because of it.

Side note: As soon as Her Majesty saw it she immediately got excited and asked if we could go fishing. Upon telling her that there were no fish in what she had dubbed ‘Lake Little Big Leak’ she informed me that WalMart had gold fish on sale for 15 cents each, and then promptly volunteered her tooth fairy money for the cause. You just gotta love her optimism!

Back to the daemon... We had come prepared this time. Before coming up I had arranged for the rental of a backhoe and a small army of family and neighbors to assist in the excavation. I had arranged the troops into ‘cooks’, ‘runners’, and ‘tool bearers’ to help Da Man and The Cajun (our valiant knights in greasy armor) get the job done. Even Her Majesty had a job; she’d volunteered to be the official 'drink holder’, and sat on the edge of the ditch with a glass of iced tea in one hand and a soda in the other.

Now, the one thing the Da Man hadn’t been able to get a look at in the winter was the pipe fitting. We had assumed that it was, in fact, held together by fittings, because that’s how water pipes, even mainlines, are attached section to section. Except when installed by the previous owners of the this property. (These people were obviously practitioners of dark juju).

Oh no, they didn’t trust fittings (thread and screw mechanisms) because they might come apart. So, in their brilliance, they had welded five 40ft pipes together as one solid piece. After Da Man and our favorite Cajun stopped laughing (this took a awhile) they disappeared down the road, back to the Home Cheapo to consult the pluming specialist. Since the nearest Home Depot is actually 25 miles away, this took most of the day. The rest of us spent this time firing up the grill and getting lighting set up so we could sit by the ditch and use the tractor as a seat for dinner.

As we were sitting there enjoying our burgers and singing songs that embarrassed every teenager within 5 miles (of which there were many by this time) we heard a groaning coming from the ditch. This was an odd sound for a non-functioning waterline to be making, especially since it had been turned off at the pump. There was no running water to the entire property. Yet, there was that groan. That distinctive sound known by both sailors and plumbers the world over. Metal stressing under the force of extreme water pressure. We double checked the pump and confirmed it was off. We even checked the wellhead to make sure it was reading zero pressure. There was no reason the pipes should make that sound, and yet they did.

We eventually decided to pack it up for the night, but we never did find out what was making that sound. It was then we decided that, even though we were sure there was a perfectly logical explanation for it, that section of pipes would be dubbed ‘haunted’.

The next day the guys managed to banish the water pipe daemon by cutting the line, installing fittings (did I mention The Cajun is a master welder?) and getting the ruptured portion replaced. The ditch was filled and finally tamped down. The pump was turned back on, and all was good.

Little did we know that the Water Pipe Daemon would be avenged by it’s buddy the Sewage Imp the moment we moved in...

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