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Broken pipe delays Ridge Waters opening again
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Broken pipe delays Ridge Waters opening again

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Ridge Waters pool

Ridge Waters pool

A burst underground pipe has delayed this year's opening of Ridge Waters Waterpark, Stodden Park's three-year-old, state-of-the-art swimming pool.

Originally, the opening had been scheduled for June 11, but with COVID preparations and the pipe issue, J.P. Gallagher, Butte-Silver Bow's parks and recreation director, had hoped to have the pool open this past Friday.

But that wasn't enough time to deal with the pipe issue.

Now, Gallagher says, the county is hoping that "in a week to 10 days, we'll have everything done and kids in the pool."

Gallagher said when county workers began to fill the pool for the season, it became obvious the system had a leak. Investigation revealed that a three-inch line under the pool's deep end had broken.

Gallagher said despite what everyone considered to be a good winterization plan in place, the pipe froze and burst.

"The winterization plan was based on a gravity-feed runoff system so rain and other moisture would go through the piping out into a dewatering well. It made good sense, except as it turned out there was a small flaw, a bend in one of the pipes, where water accumulated and didn't gravity-feed out like it was supposed to."

Gallagher said the county was not responsible for the damage and will not have to pay for it. The pool is under warranty. While Markovich Construction was the general contractor for the job, "it was a manufacturer error," Gallagher said, and he expects the manufacturer, The Pool Co. Inc., to be the primary source of funding for the repair. The Pool Co. also devised the winterization plan, he added. 

"Going forward," Gallagher said, "we'll definitely have a different winterization plan, and that will include blowing out the pipes and adding antifreeze to the system instead of relying on the gravity feed."

Gallagher said representatives of Markovich Construction, SMA Architects, the Pool Co. and Pioneer Technical are working on the repair project.

He said the structural engineer from Pioneer will be evaluating the repair plan. The key question, he said, is whether they will require the foot-deep concrete to be smooth-cut all the way. "We don't have equipment to do that in Butte," Gallagher said, "so we cut the first six inches and then chipped out to get to the pipe." He said if a smooth cut all the way is required, that equipment will need to be brought in from out of town, perhaps Missoula.

If that is not necessary, he believes the repair can be accomplished "in a week to 10 days."

"Everything did go through the correct process," he said. "A small design flaw caused a major problem."

He said Pool Co. "is used to working in colder climates," and that wasn't the problem.

Regarding COVID, Gallagher said the Parks and Recreation Department had hoped to allow as many as 250 into the pool at a time, but the Health Department has suggested a limit of 50 in the pool at a time.

While the county does not currently have a public engineer on staff, Gallagher said he did not believe that lack was a factor in this situation. He said an independent engineer would always have been hired in a situation in which the construction work was all contracted out, as was the case with the pool.

But Gallagher, who is running against incumbent Dave Palmer for chief executive, said "it would be very good to have a conversation about having a P.E. on staff" at the county.

"I don't object to Mark Neary as Public Works Director but I do think it would be good to discuss the county having its own professional engineer going forward," he said.

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