A faulty water line caused Joseph Gomez Elementary to go without water for brief periods of time Monday and Tuesday. According to Education officials, water pressure caused the main water pipe to repeatedly burst.
A 3-inch pressure line was leaking from a crack and eventually burst around 8:30 a.m. Monday, said Deputy Superintendent Joseph Sibilly.
Brian Roberts, the district maintenance director, said a crew tried to repair it with a structural adhesive but the pipe burst again an hour later.
Sibilly said the crew repaired it by taking a small section of the pipe out and sealing with glue adhesive and the problem seemed to subside Monday afternoon.
But the pipe burst again Tuesday morning about 6 a.m. when the crew turned the water pressure up. This time the crew reconfigured the pipe before replacing it completely.
Roberts said the crew changed the direction of the pipe, extended its length and solidified its base despite the rain and mud. "It was not the easiest repair," Roberts said.
Sibilly said the maintenance crew diverted the water from the buildings on higher ground to the lower ones utilized by students.
The students were not without water or lunch despite the difficulties with the water line, according to Ananta Pancham, Education Department spokeswoman.
District schools are mandated to close if students go without water for four hours or more, Pancham said. Closure is also mandated if there is a major pipe breakage which cannot be repaired within a few hours.
Roberts said several things factored into the recurring problem: water pressure, rain that diluted the glue adhesive’s solvency and a rush to fix the problem before it adversely affected students.
"The time, temperature and rain were working against us," Roberts said.
While this issue can be worrisome for parents, St. Thomas-St. John Superintendent Jeanette Smith-Barry said officials reacted sufficiently to the problem.
Sibilly said school officials are faced with obstacles ranging from power outrages to lack of funding. "We’re constantly chasing fires," he said.
Smith-Barry agreed. "We deal with a (myriad) of issues in these schools. These things happen," she said. "We did address it."
Whenever problems like these arise "the protocol is always helpful," Pancham said. "The problem will be rectified faster if everybody’s informed."