Quick Response Saves Warehouse from Spewing Water

California plumber digs beneath concrete slab to repair 10-inch water main.
Quick Response Saves Warehouse from Spewing Water
Team Perry (from left) includes Nathan Glibberly, Harley Perry, Michelle Selitto-Perry and Mike Pallotto. (Photo courtesy Perry Plumbing)

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Over the course of a long and storied plumbing career, Harley Perry, owner of Perry Plumbing Heating & Air in National City, California, has taken on his share of emergencies, but as he reflects on many memorable years it’s a job that took place three decades ago that remains top of mind.

It all began when Perry received a call from Big Bear supermarkets concerning one of their large storage facilities stretching about three football fields in length and width.

“They called me at about 6 o’clock in the morning and said they had an emergency,” he recalls. “There was a leak and they couldn’t figure out where it was coming from and couldn’t get it shut off.”

Within a half hour Perry was on site and in action. What he saw from the outside looking in was a massive warehouse with water pouring out of its doors. Upon entering, he saw that the entire building was flooded – down the middle of one of the aisles the concrete had lifted and split.

It looked like a 100-yard geyser shooting up about 5 feet.

Thanks in part to his background in underground work with water mains, sewers, storm drains, manholes and catch basins, Perry was able to assess the situation and determine the cause.

First, he shut off the water and opened the roll-up doors to allow the standing water to escape. Then he calmed down the stakeholders, who were in a panic about the millions of dollars worth of product inside. Fortunately, none was damaged despite water climbing to within 1/2 inch of the pallets holding food and other merchandise.

“When I pointed at the concrete and told them this is where the problem is and then when I opened up the concrete and it was there, they were amazed,” he says.

A sense of relief set in, but the work was far from finished. To repair the broken fitting on the underground 10-inch water main, Perry had saw cutters come in to remove a large section of the concrete.

He and his crew used a CASE 580C backhoe to excavate down about 10 feet and make the necessary repair. From start to finish, the job took three weeks to complete. Perry credits the emergency job for fostering a long working relationship.

Although the supermarkets have since closed, the same owners have a farm, an insurance company and apartment buildings that continue to provide work for Perry Plumbing Heating & Air. 

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