Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Leak - or God Gave you a Brain - USE IT!

Sept. 2012 In September we found a little red tag attached to our front door knob that said “don't be surprised if you get a high water bill this might want to check to see if you have a leak..." It was from our local water company. Thank God they do that kind of thing. Our water bill went from $35 to $99. We’ve never had to pay for water before, having gotten our water from wells. Which has the advantage of..., uh, well you don’t have to pay for it. But when the electricity goes out - you’ve got no water, because the well is run by a pump. When it comes from the town, even if your power goes out - the water keeps flowing. But you DO pay for it.

So we ‘invited’ the plumber to come over. He said it was probably a leak in the main line or a T valve connection going to the barn - wherever underground THAT might be. “Most leaks occur at the joints,” said he. He asked the obvious questions (were toilets running, etc.), and we said no. And if you had a pipe leak in your house, you’d probably notice some moisture - somewhere...ceiling, wall, etc. Nothing was obviously leaking.

He said for $125 he’d return, find the leak (if he could) and fix it. (He charged nothing for this first trip.) Several days later he came back with his handy dandy water detection device. Think of a metal detector. You know, you’ve seen those people wandering the beaches with headphone on, a few days’ growth of beard on their faces, a bit of desperation about them, wafting a wand back and forth hoping to find someone’s lost gold ring in the sand. Well our plumber too wore earphones and had some magical device that he pressed against the ground that supposedly would indicate running water. More sophisticated than the last dower we had looking for our well. I guess. Neither was successful.

But he had another handy dandy device - a thin metal pole with a cross piece on top (think of a metal T). You push it as far down as you can and then pull it up and if there’s mud stuck to it that's a goodly indication of a leak in the soil. He pressed it into the ground up at the main source which is at the top of our driveway and left about a hundred paces - LONG way from the house. Nothing. I thought it was a neat device and something that might come in handy so I tried it. I managed to get it about 2" into the ground. And I’m VERY STRONG. This guy must have had arms like Godzilla for he got it down about 15". I scrapped the idea of buying one for myself.

We then walked down to the house and he employed the magic wand around the area where the pipe came in. (He knew where that was because he had gone under the house to determine exactly where that was, God bless him. There are the biggest spiders known to man under there!) No sounding. Then he pressed the T pipe. Nothing.

Then we walked out to the barn - another several hundred feet away. And he pressed his magic wand around the pipe coming out of the ground there. No flow indication.

Then I asked him about a silver thing in the ground that I’ve been curious about since we moved in here. About 10" in diameter.
I’ve asked every workman that has come to this house from plumbers to electricians to carpenters. Not one had any idea what it might be. Nor did this plumber. Though he did pry at it and it did seem to move somewhat. And he tried his magic water detector around it too to no avail. I hadn’t tried to pry too much at it because I thought it might be something that shouldn’t be tampered with, and also it seemed rather pry proof. But since he had managed to get it to move.....clued my brain.

OK. So he couldn’t find the leak. “Now what?” we asked. “Well, you’re not gonna wanna hear this, but it’s probably in the main line between the top of the driveway and the house.” Uh huh. “Which means...what, exactly?” “Well, it means you’ve gotta dig up the old line and replace it.” Ah. “And what exactly will that cost?” “Well, it’s $225 for the trencher (the machine that cuts the trench), and then it’s $3 a foot for the piping, but if it’s over 150 feet we knock it down to $2 a foot.” Uh huh. “And how many feet do you think this will be?” He has a handy dandy little measuring device with a wheel that he could walk along with to measure. So he walks the distance to the house from the top of the line. Then he adds on the distance to the barn. And he comes up with 500 feet. That’s $1,225. He says the line is probably real old anyway and needs replacing. I say, “but we don’t know if it’s leaking from the top of the driveway to the house, or from the house to the barn. Supposing there IS indeed a T valve somewhere and we locate it? Then we could determine which pipe is leaking, at least, and save some money, no?" He says - "Yes, that’s true." My brain is churning. “Are you SURE there’s no leak at the connection at the top of the driveway on the main?” He actually takes the time and we all walk way back up there and he digs out all the earth around the connection and I can see it and the pipe leading from it. I bend down and feel the pipe, which is plastic. Feels strong and sturdy and just fine to me. Brain continues to churn. This pipe doesn’t seem old and degenerating to my mind. Just doesn’t make sense there would be a leak in it.

I tell him I’m gonna dig up that metal thing in the ground and find out what’s under there. (Maybe it’s the T valve - I’m thinking.) He says with a laugh, “Maybe you’ll find some buried treasure.” I said, “Yeah, and maybe it’ll pay for the new pipe we need laid.” I’m thinking to myself I’m gonna do everything in my power to find that damn connecting T valve, wherever it may be. Of course I don't even know what one LOOKS like.

The next day I get up, get out my pitch fork, my shovel and go after the silver disk. I dig, I pry, I wiggle, I curse AND, I manage to get it up.
I move the earth away from under it.
And...oh wow, look at THAT!!! It’s a gate valve. It must be the shut off to the barn. Oh please let it be. Is it?
And I reach down and start turning it clockwise. And it turns...easily. "How bizarre," I think. "This thing must have been in the ground for - who knows how many years, probably since the barn was built. And yet it turns?" And I keep turning and turning.... and turning... and - oh crap, it’s probably so old it’s just gonna keep turning forever and isn’t active any more and then....

... it stopped. It stopped! And I RAN to the barn and opened up the spigot and.... NOTHING HAPPENED!!!! Yipeeeee!!!!! I’d found the turn off for the barn for sure!!!! Ok. So now at least I can determine if the leak is from the main to the house or from the shut off to the barn. It certainly wasn’t at this gate valve connection anyway. I run back up to the top of the driveway and look at the meter with hope in my heart. 'Cause if it stopped, that means the leak is in the shortest part of the line which is to the barn.

The meter’s still spinning. Crap. OK. Well at least we know it’s not in the line going to the barn. That’ll save us a hundred feet or so. Having reached this level of success I was not about to give up. I dug down far enough so that I could expose the plastic pipe.

I felt it. Just like the one at the top of the driveway, it felt strong and good. I thought ‘THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THESE DAMN PIPES!!! It’s gotta be in the T valve connection.” The plumber said “most leaks occur at the connections.” I was determined to find that T valve.

God gave me brain and I used it at this point. I thought, “If there’s a leak under ground somewhere, it’s gotta show up on top of the ground. It’s just gotta. There has GOT to be more moisture in a certain area.” I thought “If I have to crawl all over this entire acreage on my hands and knees, I’m gonna find it!” And I began.

I knew where the main line started down from the top of the driveway. Didn’t know where exactly it went, but it had to head for the house. I knew now where the shut-off was for the barn. I drew an imaginary line from each in my mind. Somewhere these two lines had to intersect. I began a slow systematic ground check about 20 feet from the turn off valve heading toward the house. Noticed one area that seemed moist. Went inside and got a paper towel. Pressed it into the ground. Didn’t pick up much moisture. Pressed the ground with my fingers, feeling for dampness, sponginess. Felt kinda damp, but...not sure. Walked all the way back up to the main perusing the ground along the way. Did anything look damp? As damp as what I had just seen? No. Back down to that other area. Back on my hands and knees. Pressed with paper towel again. Yes, minor moisture. Wait! I have an iron rod. I kept it. Moved it from NY to NC to here. (Ya never know when something's gonna be of use!) It didn’t have a T on top to help me press, but I got it out from the garage and stuck it in the ground and pushed as hard as I could and it went down a goodly distance and... I pulled it up. And...yes, it did seem kind of muddy-ish.

So I dug there with my trowel. Got down about 6". Nope, not quite the right spot, I instinctively knew.
Must be close though. I moved on my hands and knees farther toward the house a couple of feet. Pressed my finger into the ground and it - WENT IN. Easily. My finger NEVER goes into the ground easily. This is hard clay soil. I then pressed the pole in and pulled it up. YES! Definite mud! The leak has to be here, I thought. And after about a minute water actually started pouring out of the tiny hole I’d made with the pole. EUREKA!!!!!!

I didn’t know what I’d find when I began digging in earnest, but I knew it would be wet. And this was a good sign. So I took the shovel and began.
I got down about 10" and YES!!!!! There it was, I'd actually found it! the holy grail! I was beside myself with happiness. Within a few seconds, however, water filled up the hole.
I dug out a channel so the water could pass and sure enough, right at the connection of the T I could see the water pouring out. THERE'S THE LEAK!!!! It felt like a small miracle. Truly.

The plumber came the next day. Was rather amazed that I had found the T valve. I think he was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get the $1,225 but only the $125.
He put a new valve in, big brass thing. Told us to leave it uncovered for a couple of days. Glad we did, because the clamps didn’t hold. He had to come back and re-clamp the connections. I have since put a valve cover box on the turn off to the barn and also this T valve spot. The former allows us access to the turn off. The other one is just a marker so that we or any future owner may know where that damn connecter is located. Moral of the story - never give up and use your brain!!!


OwlFeather said...

You are too Muckin' Fuch! LOL! I thought for sure that the silver disc was going to be an old well cap! GOOD JOB!

Giulia said...

An old well cap, now that would have been interesting. I was hoping for the buried treasure, but actually finding the turn-off to the barn WAS a buried treasure and for sure the T valve was.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

I haven't been back here for a while because you don't blog regularly but I figured I'd take a peek. Loved the story. Some good old New York common sense you used there Guilia!

How's Tennessee? We're back in Jersey. Hope you're still not smoking. We FINALLY quit using the e-cigarettes.


Tommy Piver said...

I was wanting you to find a treasure also!

Actually, I guess you did discover the treasure that is your ability to think things through for yourself, as opposed to buying a solution to a problem!

Michael O'Sullivan said...

I just discovered this blog. Spent much time thinking of you over the past years. Would love to reconnect michael o'sullivan

Giulia said...

Michael O'Sullivan - what a HOOT! If you get this message let me know and I'll create a disposable temporary email address so we can get in touch. Unless you know of of a better way? Delighted to hear from you. Sorry I didn't respond sooner but I've been out of town and am going out of town again tomorrow. Will check back here upon my return.