By Zach Spadt
Pine Bluffs Post 

Malfunctioning electronic system causes town water tank to blow its lid


Zach Spadt/Pine Bluffs Post

The lid of the 600,000 gallon water tank in Pine Bluffs exhibiting damage from a recent telemetry malfunction. Town Engineer Charles Lidstone said the blowout was the result of a blocked screen causing water pressure to build up.

A malfunctioning telemetry system caused a 600,000 gallon water tank used to store drinking water for Pine Bluffs to blow its lid. Fortunately, however, the town was just preparing to bring a new 300,000 gallon tank online.

In an email to the Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board, Charles Lidstone, Town Engineer, said the problem began when the telemetry system failed, allowing water to be pumped from the wells at a rate of 900 gallons per-minute, causing the water to hit the 24-gauge mesh screen, which is required by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

"Something blocked the screen and the system back-pressured until the concrete top was lifted and damaged," Lidstone said in the email.

"As the telemetry system was recently installed by a private contractor, the town may file an insurance claim with the contractor," said Pine Bluffs Treasurer Kim Patterson. "The required screen mesh is required by environmental agencies to be in place. Most likely, hard water deposits caused the mesh to become clogged and the excess water had no where to go. With the excess pressure, the only give was in tank's lid."

During the town council's July 18 meeting, Mayor Bill Shain expressed frustration with the requirements.

"Keeping ants out of the water cost us a 600,000 gallon tank," Shain said. "It seems like the screen should be designed to blow out before the roof blows out. I feel very strongly that the EPA will never take responsibility for this. They have some responsibility."

Pine Bluffs currently has two tanks, with the 600,000-gallon tank being off-line until it can be repaired and inspected. Unfortunately, the damaged lid is preventing divers from safely inspecting the tank.

Patterson said the screens are of concern to many Wyoming municipalities.

If the town were ever to lose both water tanks, there needs to be a backup system so residents can have safe drinking water. As a result, the town is applying for a emergency mineral reserve grant through SLIB.

The grant would provide the town with funding to install an emergency chlorination system that would treat water as it came directly out of the well if the need to bypass a storage tank ever arose. Patterson said, while such events are unlikely, it is important to have such an emergency system in place.

The council's next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, August 1.


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