The Cumberland/Colvin Canal

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For the past few weeks, the 1200 block of Cumberland, the block adjacent to E. Colvin St. has been flooded. I had assumed a leak from one of the fire hydrants–but then I noticed that the water was coming from further up Colvin. Doing my best Mr. Livingston impersonation, I followed the water upstream and found the source–a fire hydrant buried in the woods adjacent to the Julian Plaza and behind the Tops Supermarket. A fire hose was attached and propped up with a board to make it run.

Why? Several phone calls to the city revealed that this has been done on purpose and is not an unusual occurrence. Apparently, in areas where there is not a lot of water use, water sits for longer periods of time and chlorine levels fall into a range threatening the potability of the water. The city runs the water to raise the chlorine levels. This area had had this situation before and the city drained the water on to the commercial property on either side (Julian Plaza and Tops Supermarket.) Understandably, the businesses objected to putting the water on their property so the city decided to route the water discharge on to city streets. But the water still runs between the buildings, running under the market’s dumpsters and puddling up at one of the entrances to the plaza, before it flows out onto the city’s streets.

I do not understand the science behind this explanation (as I majored in wine, women and song in college) but I still have some questions about the governing behind this situation:

1) Apparently there is equipment that would allow the city to monitor the water so that it was only discharged for as long as it takes to bring the chlorine content up to acceptable levels. According to a couple of city employees, this equipment is not used because of its expense.

2) Why is the water being discharged on to city streets and allowed to flow for three blocks? (north on Julian, west on E. Colvin, north on Cumberland.)

3) Did the city notify area residents about what’s going on?

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