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Water tower roof collapses

WHITE CITY ' A landmark water tower in town took on a new look this week when its roof partially collapsed.

The collapse was caused by a massive leak in a water main that quickly drained the tank, said Ed Olson, manager of the Medford Water Commission. Water rushed out of the tank faster than air could get in to replace it, so a vacuum formed, sucking in the roof of the reservoir.

Wednesday a 42-inch diameter pipe near the water treatment plant burst, sending between 30,000 and 50,000 gallons of water per minute gushing down an access road near the plant, spraying across a nearby lot and spilling into the Rogue River, Olson said. The giant leak spilled water for about 15 minutes before crews got to work on the problem, he said.

When workers noticed the big dent in the 750,000-gallon water tank on Avenue G, they slowly drained the rest of the water into nearby irrigation ditches. An engineer inspected the water tower, but the roof collapse was the only damage discovered, Olson said.

He said the tank won't be refilled until experts can determine the full extent of the roof damage. They will figure out whether to repair, replace or discontinue use of the water tower.

The tower was built in 1969 to provide adequate water pressure to fight fires at industrial plants in the area, Olson said. Just one water line served White City at that time, he said.

Since then, several new water lines have been installed, so the area has sufficient water pressure, Olson said.

It has less value now than when it was built, he said, of the tower. Customers won't even notice the difference.

Olson expects a full evaluation of the tower to be done in about a month. The water commission's insurance should cover expenses, he said.

A Medford Water Commission storage tank in White City partially collapsed when the tower quickly drained after a water main broke nearby. The water drained so fast that air couldn?t replace it quickly enough, and the top caved in. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell