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‘Fountain of youth’ sprouts near Clinton Post Office

Drivers along Highway 525 were treated to a watery spectacle Tuesday as a broken line sent a geyser 30 feet into the air at the Clinton Post Office. - Lou Donaty photo
Drivers along Highway 525 were treated to a watery spectacle Tuesday as a broken line sent a geyser 30 feet into the air at the Clinton Post Office.
— image credit: Lou Donaty photo

A spectacular fountain of water erupted without warning in the parking lot of the Clinton Post Office Tuesday afternoon.

No one was hurt, but several cars were pelted by rocks that were sent soaring at least 30 feet into the air by the unexpected geyser. Flying rocks shattered a window on a Honda Accord owned by a U.S. Postal Service employee.

Postmaster Sharon Balter was inside helping customers when it started sprinkling stones and raining water.

“All of a sudden, we were at the counter when pebbles started flying and we could see the jet of water rising outside,” she recalled. “There was a lot of debris; it was a real fountain of youth event.”

Balter contacted Mike Helland, manager of the Clinton Water District. Helland soon found the cause of the problem.

“It looked as though a dump truck pulling into the lot put enough tension on the 2-inch service line at the valve to make it break,” Helland said. “With roughly 70 pounds per square inch, the hydraulic energy was enough to provide an impressive display. It was nobody’s fault, really, but it underscores the importance of putting in water lines right the first time.”

Island County Sheriff Lt. Evan Tingstad was on the scene, which drew stares of wonderment from many passersby. The water shot higher than a nearby light pole on Highway 525.

“There was no collision, no crime, it was just one of those spontaneous events,” Tingstad said. “The water line may not have been buried as deep as it should have.”

Helland turned down the flow — keeping enough pressure in the line to avoid contamination — then shut it down completely. The post office was without water for several hours.

“Mike worked late into the night to repair the problem, and we appreciate his quick response,” Balter said.

As for the broken car window, post office employee Jim Wills said that the Clinton Water District would cover the damage.

“It was their water that caused it,” he said. “But it was a beautiful sight, like Old Faithful right in our parking lot.”

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