Water tower to get pricey paint job

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RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press A 2-million-gallon water tank that towers over Coeur d’Alene’s western neighborhoods along Atlas Road is slated for a paint job that will cost the city $92,000.

COEUR d’ALENE — Despite its size and capacity, it has no nickname.

Although it protrudes like a swollen thumb from the surrounding prairie, the water tower at the northwestern edge of Coeur d’Alene is known mostly for a technicality.

“We just call it the industrial pipe,” Kyle Marine, assistant water superintendent at the city of Coeur d’Alene said.

It was built almost 20 years ago near an edge-of-town industrial park along Atlas Road, which has since become edged by developments.

Monikers such as Big Blue or Papa Smurf don’t apply to the water tower that some claim as the world’s tallest.

It could be a misnomer.

Either way, the city plans to spend $92,000 to repaint the 2-million-gallon tank this spring, before the peak, summer water usage period.

City Council members Tuesday elected to accept the low bid from Yakima-based United Paint Idaho LLC, which was among four bidders. The highest bid for the project was $227,000 from a Kent, Wash., company.

Built in 2000, the storage tank’s main water line flowed through what city planners anticipated would become future developments including The Indian Meadows subdivision along Nez Perce Road.

Forward-thinking planners built the tower in a sparsely developed area. On one side was mostly empty prairie, farmsteads and slow-traffic rural roads. It was a place where growth was anticipated.

“The (pipe) was painted a light blue to effectively blend in with the natural surroundings,” Marine said.

That being sky, mostly.

Age of the paint, rusting and scratching that resulted as equipment — including cellular tower systems — was added and removed from the tower have required the outside to be repainted, according to the city.

The inside is still in ship shape.

“A robotic interior inspection confirmed that the interior coating is in prime condition,” Marine said.

Painting could start as soon as the weather permits and will take a few weeks. The tank has to be empty because its water, which comes from the aquifer, is very cold, Marine said, and a temperature of 55 degrees is required for the paint to stick.

The industrial pipe, one of two such water tanks used by the city — the other one is a 160-footer behind the Region 1 Idaho State Police headquarters along Prairie Avenue — was once thought to be the tallest in the world.

Further research found it was the second tallest. The industrial pipe is shorter than the Prairie water tower, and it may be shorter than one in Post Falls.

“I think the one in Post Falls may be 155 feet,” Marine said.

That’s a hair taller than the industrial pipe.

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