24 July 2008

WASA Big Idea? Part 3

Possible subtitle:
On The Rag with the DC Water and Sewer Authority

Get the backstory: Part One here, Part Two here.

In Part 2, it was revealed that we did have lead pipe in the feed from the street to the house: In the photo above is the test-pit WASA dug in the front yard to discover this. So we scheduled with WASA's contractor to replace the offending metal. Awesome. The missus and I took the day off to supervise.

And at precisely 8am, they came: Mercenaries of doom with their implements of destruction, heading down to the basement to do great things.

First of all, I admit... our basement is a work in progress. I've been turning it into a double studio (graphic design and music recording) as well as a groovy lounge area... a true DUDE's room. It reeks of nag champa and good music and books and funky awesome vibes down there. But it's a work in progress. Lots of STUFF still to organize. Papers and boxes and cables and books and all manner of things.

It was quite a task to move all that STUFF away from the street-side wall of the basement to give WASA room to do their work. But I was able to clear out a full one-third of the total floorspace. I gave them much more room than they needed, not to be NICE, mind you: just being paranoid about my STUFF getting covered in dust, getting stepped on, etc.

Good move. The brick-drilling device was insanely loud and raised an unholy cloud of red dust which billowed around, lighter than air. A lot of my sensitive equipment was protected under sheets, so it seemed everything was going to be JUST FINE.

I had carved a path through my pile of STUFF to the Mac at the other end of the basement, so I could keep half an eye on the guys and do some work at the same time. I was even getting used to the ear-splitting noise of the machines.

And then a new sound: Crazed shouting (en español) out the basement window to some other worker. He sounded both panicked and angry. Now, my spanish isn't just rusty, it's completely dissolved. I took 2 years of Spanish in high school but of course, it's long since fallen out of my brain. Today, my Spanish consists of, maybe, the days of the week and, on a good day, I can ask to be directed to a bathroom. Or a beer. Depends on the priorities of the moment.

So I looked towards the shouting just in time to see a giant wave of red soil-water flowing through the hole in the brick wall, covering the floor like a rushing tide, towards my sacred pile of STUFF.

Holy shit, señor.

It would seem that their "mole" (that would be the Porta-Mole, an earth-boring machine) had punctured the bit of pipe behind the closed valve, causing a full-force leak of city water to flood the new hole and thus, the basement. The best comparison would be getting a perforated bowel during a colonoscopy procedure... oopsie!

The water keeps coming. Worker guy runs back to the basement window and shouts more words in hyperspeed Spanish, sounding more panicked, more angry. Eventually the flow stops. Meanwhile, I've grabbed all absorbent items I can find; towels, blankets, etc., and have fashioned a barrier which saturates with the filthy stuff instantly.

Back to the window, more shouting. A pair of hands appears from outside, shoving in a bucket and some rags. Another guy comes in, and all three of us enjoy a silent half hour of bonding over a floor. And a bucket. And a pile of rags.

Luckily, I was able to build my mountain of STUFF without anything valuable on the bottom. So, miraculously, nothing critical was destroyed. From the beginning, I've designed this basement with the expectation that it WILL flood some day. Doesn't every basement eventually have a flood?

If anything had been damaged, I'd certainly be all over the foreman and working out a cut (or total waiver) of the cost of this operation. Anyway; on with the show.

The shiny new pipe was threaded, welded, sealed, whatever, and all workers disappeared in a flurry of motion. The site supervisor came by to inspect the work, and he explained their little mishap. I had never heard of a "mole" in equipment terms. I was half-believing this was the work of an underground rodent creature that could puncture hundred year-old lead pipe with its teeth.

A 'mole' eh? You don't say...

So now, like the shell-shocked combat veteran that gets twitchy when a helicopter flies over, I may FREAK OUT whenever I hear somebody shouting in Spanish. It may be years from now, when this event is long forgotten. I'll pass some dude screaming in Spanish, and I'll suddenly be compelled to grab blankets and rags for no reason...


DCDireWolf said...

Our block is next. What was the cost for the replacement?

IntangibleArts said...

They "said" it shouldn't cost more than $500, and the cost can be parsed out over a few months' worth of regular WASA bills.

If you go in for the full private-side replacement, just keep an eye on 'em. My little mishap could've been much, much worse if I wasn't ready to leap on that leak with blankets & such.

DCDireWolf said...

Thanks, sage advice.

epota said...

Well, Mister... You'll have to give me some of your tips on how to keep a basement studio functioning safely without really touching the basement floor. Tables will elevate mixers and effects. Cords can be raised and kept out of harms way. How does one successfully raise the drum set? A riser, perhaps? That will be my next move. Carpet remnants on the floor lead to soggy results.

No water yet. But we live in an area with more flooding than the surrounding spots. Creek nearby. Sump pump running often on semi-damp days. All it takes is one lengthy power outage.

But battery backup (for sump) and generator are on hand. And fingers crossed.

Steve said...

You know, I'm confused about why they had to do this in the first place. I thought lead wasn't a danger unless it became pulverized and inhaled or swallowed (as in lead paint chips). Seems like lead pipes would be fairly stable. Are they really all that dangerous?

That aside, thank goodness you were able to save your stuff. Yikes!

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