Columbus Water Works Tank Collapses

By Lindsey Connell - bio | e-mail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Residents who live behind the Columbus Water Works Treatment Plant on River Road thought they were having a nightmare early Saturday morning.

"We heard this big kaboom and my husband and I jumped up and he ran to the window and all we heard was the gush of water. We ran to the front of the house and saw water just coming from everywhere- toys and everything were floating in the water," said Remona Jackson, a resident on Moss Drive.

"I looked around to my right and to my left. It looked like a river was just coming past my house," said Patty Chappel, who also lives on Moss Drive.

But it was very much a reality. A one-of-a-kind tank that stores river water at the plant ruptured.

"Six million gallons of water were suddenly released flowing in a wave, almost in a tsunami effect. Water Works has never experienced this kind of problem," said Bob Tant, President of Columbus Water Works.

The water went in every direction but most of it flowed downhill along with parts of the tank onto J.R. Allen Parkway, causing an avalanche of debris.

Below that, the newly rebuilt Lake Oliver Marina parking lot was also flooded with debris.

The question on everyone's mind is what caused the tank to collapse? Water Works officials don't yet know the answer but don't expect foul play. They also say the tank- built in 1965- had passed it's most recent inspection in 2004.

"Like most things like this in terms of infrastructure it probably started with some small problem that created a general weakness and then of course a complete collapse," added Tant.

Officials say it will probably take weeks to figure out what happened.

"We're going to try to make a full assessment of what caused the failure of the tank. In the meantime, we are able to by-pass that site thru other water mains and stay in service. The citizens won't really see any difference in their service," said Tant.

There were reports of someone being down in the Lake Oliver Marina fishing at the time of the collapse, however, Columbus Fire and EMS officials say that's not the case.  A car was just left there overnight.

We're told the tank will be rebuilt onsite but first comes the clean-up which will take at least several more days. Officials say they have to get the steel up off the side of J.R. Allen after examining it to see if it played any part in the collapse.

No injuries were reported in the event and Water Works officials are assuring Columbus residents their drinking water is safe.