Fuse and bore teams bring relief, solution to flood-ravaged water customers

For weeks, residents living near Oologah Lake dealt with water outages, boil advisories, low water pressure and mandatory water rationing in the aftermath of historic flooding that plagued Oklahoma last spring. As part of its wrath, dozens of water lines broke from the extreme force of flash flood waters. At risk was the health and safety of some 9,000 people served by the Rogers County Rural Water District No. 3.

The water district was able to repair most of their lines quickly, but there was one they just were unable to reach due to the drastically high waters and continual rains. It was a ductile iron line encased in concrete than runs across the spillway and it was completely washed out along with about 200 feet of the west bank.

At one point, the Oologah Lake level was well past the maximum flood pool and the U.S. Corps of Engineers opened the emergency spillway which flows into the Verdigris River. The spillway has only been open three times and is normally a dry, solid limestone creek bed. But it wasn’t dry anymore. The water rushed a historic 70,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) which is more than 523,000 gallons of water per second. Since it would be a month or more for the water to recede at the spillway, the water district decided to construct and bore an emergency bypass line.

“There was no way to repair that thing without reboring that spillway,” said Brian Kellogg, District Engineer, RWD 3. “PE (polyethylene) pipe was the best choice if not the only choice at hand.”

Poly Pro of Pryor and H&H Road Boring Co. of Inola received the urgent call and got to work. While Poly Pro was fusing pipe on one side of the river, H&H was on the opposite side running their bore machine under the riverbed.

Poly Pro President Tom Cravens said it took two days to fuse all of the PE pipe which consisted of 920 feet of 16” DR 11 and 900 feet of 24″ DR 17. As an added precaution, the 24” pipe served as an encasement line for the 16” pipe.

“We just felt like if something were to happen, without it being encased we’d never get to it again,” Kellogg said.

Cravens had two fusion operators onsite fusing the two lines simultaneously with McElroy TracStars®. Because these fusion machines are propelled by remote control, they could easily maneuver throughout the jobsite. Its rugged, dual-speed track system made mobility possible on the wet and rough terrain.

As an added efficiency in jobsite staging, the fusion machines were paired with the PolyHorse®, a pipe handling system that consists of adjustable racks that hold a day’s worth of pipe and feeds directly into the machine. Once the PolyHorse is loaded, one operator can operate the machine and fuse the entire rack of pipe without extra equipment.

After the pipe was pulled under the spillway, another half day was spent connecting the HDPE to the ductile iron pipe with mechanical joint adapters and installing the anchors. By early July, the rations were lifted, there were no more outages and the water district was back in business at full pressure for relieved water customers.