Search for Tonganoxie city water leak leads to historical discovery
City workers’ recent search for a water leak in downtown Tonganoxie revealed a much more interesting discovery.
Public works department officials noticed water at Fourth and Delaware streets during the past couple months, but they weren’t sure where it was coming from.
Initially city officials thought springs throughout the city were the source, said City Superintendent Kent Heskett. But tests found that there was chlorine in the water — an indication it was treated water coming from the city’s water system.
“It came to a point we had to dig,” Heskett said.
Crews dug into the intersection, but couldn’t find the leak. What they did find: a 12-foot by 16-foot cistern that city officials believe dates to the 1880s.
According to an article in a 1927 issue of The Mirror, cisterns, or watertight receptacles used for storing water underground, and individual wells first furnished the city’s water supply. In 1883-84, according to the article, two cisterns were dug in the middle of the street for fire protection. In 1883, workers drilled a test well that went to a depth of 885 feet, the article said.
The cistern at Fourth and Delaware is thought to be the original. State regulation requires they be filled once they are exposed. Crews filled it with bricks from the cistern and sand, topping it with flow fill, a concrete material.
“I just think it’s a good idea anyway,” Heskett said. “Once it’s exposed, it’s a good idea to fill them at an intersection like that.”
Heskett said he knew before digging that the cistern was under the intersection, he just wasn’t sure exactly where.
The leak’s origin still remained a mystery, but the culprit, a broken drain tile under the sidewalk just west of the intersection, was found with help from the Kansas Rural Water Association.
The association has a leak detector that got to within 6 inches of the actual leak, which was in front of Robin Jones’ Farm Bureau Insurance office.
Crews tended to another water leak last week south of U.S. Highway 24-40 and Smiley Road.
Heskett said the dry ground was to blame for that leak.
“It pulled a water fitting lose from the pipe,” he said.