Tonga volcano possible cause of water main break

The volcanic eruption off Tonga is believed to be responsible for the initial damage to the normally submerged water main that crosses Ucluelet Inlet for approximately 280 members of the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Ucluelet) First Nation.

A state of emergency has been declared by the nation, which has been without its regular supply of drinking water since Monday morning after its line broke through the entrance.

Ucluelet District crews and contractors are repairing the line, hoping to have it back in service by next week.

Delivery trucks brought 18 liter jugs of drinking water and added to the community firefighting tank, now at 50%.

Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ president Charles McCarthy and Duane Lawrence, administrative director of Ucluelet, believe that the underwater volcanic eruption in the South Pacific could have caused the supply line to break.

One theory is that the anchors holding the line were dislodged by more frequent and higher tidal currents in and out of the entrance. Residents saw the higher throughputs.

“We’re working to confirm it, but it seems too coincidental that we had this tsunami activity on Saturday,” Lawrence said.

McCarthy’s daughter was in the creek checking crab pots when she spotted a tug pulling a log boom on Monday morning, McCarthy said. After it passed, “a black thing came out of the water.”

She took some pictures of what turned out to be the community’s eight-and-a-half-inch-diameter water pipe and sent them to her father, prompting a backlash from the community.

The line belongs to the district of Ucluelet.

As the tug passed, the floating line that broke off was able to be caught by the tug. The line has what looks like a cut propeller as well as a bump, he said. A seam on the pipe broke at the pumping station.

A contract dive team and the district public works team worked on the repair. They removed about 300 meters from the 600 meter long line. A new portion will be installed and welded in place.

“There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to reattaching the line to the bottom of the inlet,” Lawrence said.

“Our public works team and contractors are doing an exceptional job of getting things done as quickly as possible.”

The country’s community services have mobilized to help the inhabitants.

The use of water in the houses is limited to the toilets only and this water comes from the tank.

Residents cannot wash their laundry or use water to wash dishes. Some have brand new babies, McCarthy said.

Water refills for bottles and jugs are available at the Ucluelet Community Center. The nation will distribute 18-liter water bottles to residents, taking into account family sizes.

“Once the water tower has reached a sustainable volume and the first round of water testing is complete, restrictions can be relaxed to allow sanitary washing and short showers. Maintaining low water usage will be vital when this transition takes place,” reads a notice from the nation on social media.

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