Flood heroes save the day at Iluka
Published on 23 May 2022
A watermain break at Iluka during the peak of the recent flood event led to some community members going above and beyond to fix the eruption.
With Iluka cut off by floodwaters on the morning of 4 March, resident Warren Dawson, 68, offered to help after a watermain burst on Marandowie Drive forcing water 20 metres into the air.
“You do what you can do,” said Mr Dawson, who is now retired, and previously worked as part of Clarence Valley Council’s outdoor staff for 34 years.
"A lot of the staff were flood bound, so I got a call from one of the guys to see if I could help.
“The tapping band had broken and that watermain supplies households. It erupted and blew a metre-by-metre hole in the road and was spurting water 60 feet in the air.”
Mr Dawson went to the sewerage treatment works to find some tools to fix the break. But adding to the drama, he was surprised to find a large brown snake lying on top of the equipment he needed.
“I knew where the gear was and as I walked towards it I saw the snake,” he said.
“I got a piece of metal and got the snake out of there.
“One of the other council guys in town, Zac Newton, came and picked me up and we got the watermain turned off and down to a trickle."
However, while the leak was contained, the village was facing the prospect of no available water until the critical piece of infrastructure could be fixed.
Some quick thinking from a group of Council staff who were sandbagging in Maclean averted the potential disaster. Water Cycle field officers Andrew Saint, Mathew Bell and Jordan Coglan, with the aid of Wayne Smith from the Port Authority of NSW, hopped in a boat and traversed the swollen Clarence River to restore the water supply at Iluka.
"A half cubic metre of water had blown out of the edge of the road," Mr Bell said.
"We had limited resources in adverse conditions. We didn't have access to any machines, so we borrowed a digger from Valley Earthworks at a nearby subdivision to get to the watermain.
"But the groundwater kept beating us."
The ensuing five-hour operation started as an uphill battle and was a wet and messy affair. The saturated water table meant the cubic metre hole kept filling with water, and it was not until fellow field operator Reece Love was able to get to Iluka in the vacuum excavation truck that real progress could be made.
"We had three pumps going to pump the water out," Mr Bell said.
"Andrew Saint was right in there, boots off, during the highest peak.
"The town could've been out of water for 24 hours."
Instead, by the afternoon services had returned to normal in Iluka.
"At the time Council staff were unable to get to Iluka to provide a timely response to the burst watermain, so we are very fortunate Warren came to the rescue," Clarence Valley Council Manager Water Cycle Greg Mashiah said.
"Council really appreciates the fact a former staff member came to our aid in this situation.
"Meanwhile the initiative, foresight and perseverance of the staff who repaired the breakage was truly admirable."
IMAGE BELOW: Wayne Smith (Port Authority of NSW) and Clarence Valley Council staff Andrew Saint, Mathew Bell, Jordan Coglan and Reece Love all played important roles to minimise the impact to the community from a burst water main at Iluka on the morning of Friday, 4 March 2022. The boat pictured was used to transport four of the men across the flooded Clarence River to Iluka.