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Brewer Burns

Friday, May 19, 2006

Did You Tap That?

On Wednesday night I attended my first ever tapping contest. What is a tapping contest? It’s good that you asked since I didn’t know until I saw it in action. A tapping contest is where a group of four people (historically, exclusively men) manually drill a hole in a water main and hook up a service to it. Did that make sense? Yeah. Didn’t think so. Let me break it down into steps.

Step One:

You have a water main. A pretty hefty section of pipe, containing water under pressure. You need to drill a hole in that water main (why? I don’t know. Anyway...) You need to drill a hole in that water main manually (I asked Stephen if holes in water mains are actually drilled manually these days. Of course not. There’s a machine that does that.) How do you do that? You take out this large tool that locks onto the main itself, and contains a drilling mechanism inside. Then a large burly man (or woman) is going to turn that drill mechanism like it was a corkscrew wine bottle opener until he (or she) has bored a hole in the main.

Step Two:

While the big burly man (or woman) is manually boring a hole in a piece of ductile iron pipe, another guy (also pretty burly) is going to create the copper service line to complete the service. He (or she) will take two lengths of copper pipe, cut off the ends, pound said ends down, attach the part that joins the two lengths of pipe together, clamp one end of the joined pipe to a spigot, manually bend the copper pipe so that it can be hooked up to the water main at the proper angle, and then just hope that nothing leaks.

Step Three:

Once the hole has been bored in the water main and the service line has been created, all that is left to do is hook up the copper service pipe to the water main.

It’s actually pretty cool to watch the contest itself. Spokane did very well. Their best final time was (I believe although I had already consumed a couple of tasty beverages by this time) 1:33. That’s one minute and thirty-three seconds. They did not win, but instead lost to the Rockwood (Portland) Water district who posted a time of (again, I think) 1:22. Significantly, Portland had a clean run its first time and, since they were the last team to go, elected not to take a second run.

Also very cool? There was one team that was made up entirely of women. Apparently they compete nationally in the women’s team competition.

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