Fixing a Waterfall

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It’s not often that you get to say “We fixed a waterfall today at work.” Let’s face it, that’s not within the normal parameters of most occupations. But this summer, that’s exactly what we did! I’ve mentioned before, working as an inshore diver means that you have a lot of different jobs that come up, all with their own challenges, whether it’s lifting a boat off the bottom, or more mundane tasks like pounding bolts in a marina extension. And like most jobs, this one had its own quirks that made it memorable. The job itself was for a housing community in Osoyoos, at the very southern most tip of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. In a power outage several weeks previously had left the pump in a bad way, and it ceased pumping water to the waterfall. As a modified water feature, the result was a hold algae build up over the trickle that was the waterfall, and a growth spurt of weeds. Our job was to replace the pump, and get the works started again.

After loading up our gear and getting a safety brief, we were on the way. It was a long drive to the site, so we brought everything we thought we would need. On arrival, we recce’d the site, and determined that we would need to modify our plan a bit. The water was quite shallow, only about 2.5 or so metres, and warm, but because of the lack of flow in the water, visibility was poor. The biggest issue was that the pump was in a caisson, on an odd angle, and plumbed in a manner that made sense from an installation standpoint, but made it challenging to access. Because of the nature of the job, we engaged a full lockout, eliminating the power and making the area safe to operate in. Then we got down to business.

Harley was diver one, and he splashed first, entering the tepid water and taking on the near contortionist act needed to release the very well secured pump. Then it was my turn to hit the water, wading in with a metal bar that we used to lift the unit out of its caisson and bring it over to the surface. Once cleared, we had to attach the new power cables to the old ones, and then pull them through the duct that was made for the originals. During our surface interval, we also had to devise a new plumbing plan that would allow us to easily install the new pump, and in case of future maintenance requirements, remove it. After some experimentation on land, we got it and it was back into the water with the new pump while the rest of the power line was pulled through.
Surrounded by particulate, we marched the new pump out and placed it into position. At which point we moved to our individual tasks. Harley was working on getting it all attached, while I commenced searching for a large and expensive wrench that had been lost earlier in the day. In all reality, I never thought my mine awareness training would come in handy as a diver, but it was what I had to use to search for the wrench, since visibility was too poor to spot it. After about ten minutes of feeling my way along through the weeds and algae, I found the wrench, and returned it to a happy boss on the surface. At which point Harley surfaced and asked for assistance with attaching the pump. Between the two of us, we managed to wrangle it into position (which ultimately saw me floating upside down to get the right angle on the ring clamp) and then replaced the filter grill over it. The power was switched back on, and the waterfall started up again.

It was a long drive and a surprisingly challenging job, but we got it done, and best of all, we left the place with an improved system and instructions on what to do in the event of another power outage. Dive wise, it was very simple, after all, we had, for all intents as purposes, a bottom time limited only by the number of cylinders we brought. The water was warm, we had lots of water, and we had a plan. But dealing with unexpected, such as a sunken caisson and a bizarre plumbing system, is part of being a commercial diver, and more so when you’re working inshore!

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About Author

Graeme is a professional diver, qualified as a PADI and SDI Divemaster, DCBC 40m Unrestricted Commercial Scuba Diver, 30m Restricted Surface Supply diver, and CAUS Scientific Diver Lv.2. Graeme has an Associate Degree of Arts in Environmental Studies, where he focused on archaeology and physical geography. Graeme lives in British Columbia.

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