Working on the Bubbling Urn 10-3-2016


dsc_4095I came out to view the ponds on my normal morning walk around, carrying my bucket of fish pellets to throw to the fish. This is usually the first thing I do after waking, showering and starting my day. Things have a habit of happening in the night time hours and I am always curious just what I might find each morning. Most mornings, things are OK but occasionally, I might find a dead fish or a plant that blew over in the night or sometimes, something scary like a snake in the water. Sometimes, a pipe gets blocked and the pumps have lowered the water level which is always a worry but generally speaking, all that is required is for me to change out a couple of filters and hose off the dirty ones.

In the middle of the 5000 gallon pond, the first one that I built, stands an Urn. It has stood in the same place for the past 25 years which is as old as when I built that pond way back in 1991 and has gone through different iterations as regards the method of getting water to it the most recent of which was for it to be hooked up to its own 1200 gph pump. Occasionally, the flow is lessened usually by the protective pump bags needing cleaning to increase the flow. I can generally see that coming as the height of the water spout in the Urn gradually drops lower and lower. The problem is quickly fixed with changing the protective bag over the pump.

Over the years sometimes pumps have burned out necessitating in replacing them.  Depending on the hook up at the time, whether the pump was hooked to more than one outlet like a waterfall or a filter as well as the Urn, I would generally run a drain cleaning rod through the pipe before hooking up the new pump. Over a period of time, silt builds up in the pipes and needs to be rodded out in order to maintain maximum flow.

When I came out this morning, the flow out of the Urn was non existent, absolutely nothing so I concluded that in all probability, the pump had burned up. Most of these small pumps generally only last around 2-3 years. They are guaranteed for 2 years so its almost a given they will fail shortly after. The first move was to disconnect everything and rod out the pipe. I thought it was clean so I turned my attention to the pump which was making a lot of noise and was not running very evenly but was still pumping water. I hooked everything back together but still no water coming out of the Urn. I concluded that the pump was not working very well and took time out to go to my favorite store, Home Depot to buy a new 1200 gal gph pump.

After hooking up the new pump, the Urn was still not flowing water so the problem had to be in the pipe. As rodding the pipe out was not fixing the problem, then the only alternative was to get in the pond which I decided to do the next day.

The following morning after breakfast, I contemplated on what to wear in the pond. The water is still comparatively warm so I could wear shorts and go barefoot or I could put on my waders and water shoes and feel a little more protected. Just the day before, I had seen a water snake in the goldfish pond which made sense as those fish are small enough for it to eat. The Koi in the pond I was getting are way to big to be this snakes dinner but even so, I opted for the waders.Turns out to be a good choice as the story will tell.

I climbed into the pond with everything that I thought I might need, stacked within hands reach on the side. The Urn is very heavy even in the water as it is totally filled with silt from the 25 years of water being pumped through it. I managed to turn it on its side and discovered that the 3/4 inch black corrugated pipe had broken in two by the base of the Urn. This can happen to this type of pipe as it gets very stiff and brittle as it ages. I probably broke it as I handled the Urn. I ended up having to replace that piece of pipe as after several attempts of making a repair, the pipe was continually breaking.The pipe itself was completely solid with muck so no wonder the water was not flowing through.

I got a bit clumsy or maybe the Urn was out of control but I managed to knock over the stack of concrete blocks on which the Urn stood resulting in me having to bend low to the water with my arms extended trying to locate the blocks with my face a bare few inches from it as I fumbled around. The water is around 3 feet deep and the blocks were not visible. While in this position, a very large dead fish suddenly appeared not two inches from my face. Not only was it dead it was also in a very advanced stage of decomposition and although still recognizable, pieces were falling off it as it floated on the water. It was another of the large Koi probably around 24 inches long and 10-12 pounds and was one of the originals, making it around 25 years old.

To my credit, I didn’t panic but reached for the cleaning net I had with me and scooped the poor thing up into it and deposited it on the side of the pond. It smelt horrible and looked even worse and I was very glad that I had chosen waders. This is the second fish within a month that had died in that pond and both of them stayed under water for a while. One did surface but obviously, this last one never did. There goes the myth that dead fish float on the surface…

I had no choice but to continue with what I was doing as I got back into the pond to complete finishing the stand and then to place the Urn on it after hooking the pipe together. This time, when I turned the pump on, the water just flowed out of the Urn higher than it had ever been before. I completed the cleaning of the pond as I generally do if I have to get in them and managed to scoop up a lot of leaves and debris. With each scoop, I was waiting all the time just in case their might be more dead fish. There were none.

What should have been a straightforward repair turned out to have a couple of surprises. Who said life was dull.

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