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Officials Investigate Partial Tower Collapse

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

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Inspectors are working to determine what caused the top of a water tower in New Jersey to collapse late last week.

In what the Borough of Brielle described in a statement to area residents as a “catastrophic event,” the steel dome of the Old Bridge water storage tank fell into the main tank Friday (Oct. 28).

As strong winds hindered efforts to immediately inspect the damage, according to News 12 New Jersey, emergency management officials were unable to offer any specific insight into what happened until the following day.

Water quality was not impacted, despite some initial sediment in tap water following the collapse, authorities said, and a boil-water advisory was not issued, but residents were told to expect low pressure until repairs were made.

Two homes in the immediate vicinity were evacuated as a precaution, a local radio station reported.

‘The Weld Held’

By Saturday morning, engineering inspectors were able to access the 131-foot, 150,000-gallon municipal water tower to evaluate the damage, the Asbury Park Press reported.

"We have everything under control," Mayor Thomas B. Nicol stated at the water tower site. "We're going to send climbers up there from the engineer to investigate, and we'll make a decision from there."

However, very little detail on the collapse has been issued at this time. Officials reportedly agree that heavy rains earlier in the week did not play a role.

"We think there was some kind of malfunction that basically sucked the roof into the tank," Nicol said at the time.

According to New Jersey 101.5 FM, Nicol referenced some kind of “vacuum mechanism” that pulled the top in, explaining, “we don’t really know how it happened. The dome didn’t come off. The weld held. It’s just like a can was crushed.” 

The dome was reportedly constructed of quarter-inch-thick steel.

“It had to be a severe vacuum,” Nicol added.

According to Nicol, before Friday’s collapse engineers had believed the structure, built in 1967, was in good condition and predicted an operable lifespan of 20 years or more.

Area Water Supply

The Borough of Brielle also has a second, new 300,000-gallon water tower in place.

The mayor credited redundancies in the water supply system for minimizing the impact on area residents.

“We are part of the Manasquan River Reservoir system and get water from that reservoir as well,” Nicol told the local radio station. “We’ve made the determination that we can run the system indefinitely this way until we repair the top of the tower.”



Tagged categories: Access; Accidents; North America; Quality Control; Steel; Tank exteriors; Tank interiors; Tank roof; Tanks; Tanks and vessels; Tower; Water Tanks

Comment from Duane Mensch, (11/1/2016, 5:43 AM)

Was there ongoing abatement on this tank when it was collapsed? I've seen a tank that crushed because of improper makeup air on a million plus gallon tank while running a 60kcuft/min dust collector. I've seen a ten million gallon tank float off of its pad also. Rigging fatalities due to the unknown stresses of structures supported by tank components and a lack of engineering controls while applying linings. Some think that the gargantuan size of these vessels negate them from such things happening. The fact of the matter is, they ARE vessels and when approached from that standpoint and treated with that respect, incidents like this can be avoided. "Painters" don't always take this into consideration when rehab is done on a tank. And engineers aren't always cognicent of the fact that these hazards or "catastrophic events" are even possible because of unfamiliarity of the work being performed and the equipment used to accomplish the task. The remedy to this is to know your job. All too often education is desired over experience. I believe both are a must. You can have every degree and certification in the industry that may be required, but if you don't have the experience in the industry, they aren't worth the paper that they are written on. Just my opinion. Know your job. And more importantly, know your limits. They might just save the day. Or someone's life.....

Comment from Bryant Chandler, (11/1/2016, 12:31 PM)

I will put my bet on the roof vent and overflow was partially closed and they had a rapid drawdown of water in the tank causing a vacuum, sufficient enough to collapse the roof, the weakest part of the tank.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (11/1/2016, 6:27 PM)

Great comment and insight Duane.

Comment from Rick Leber, (11/2/2016, 11:06 AM)

I think Bryant`s comment is probably right, given the tank was in service. It would be even more likely if the roof support beams were weakened by corrosion, which is common.

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