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Geothermal line bursts behind Boise High, adding to recent leak problems

So that’s what a geothermal leak looks like

A geothermal leak has closed Capitol Boulevard between Front and Main streets.
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A geothermal leak has closed Capitol Boulevard between Front and Main streets.

A geothermal line burst behind Boise High School on Thursday morning, closing the nearby street, although the school remained open.

The line burst on Franklin Street, between 9th and 13th streets, according to a tweet from the Boise School District. First responders are on scene, and drivers are asked to avoid the area.

Boise Public Works spokesman Colin Hickman said the leak occurred just after 7 a.m. and that the city was notified around 8 a.m. Public works has isolated the leak, and crews are working to assess the problem, he said. Franklin Street between 10th and 11th streets will be closed for repairs.

Last month, the Statesman reported that Downtown Boise saw two major geothermal system leaks, due in part to aging infrastructure.

The cold weather did not contribute to the leak, Hickman said. He did not know the cause of the leak yet but noted that some of the pipes were installed in the 1980s and all of the infrastructure is buried, making it a challenge to assess needed repairs.

The city-owned geothermal system heats more than 6 million square feet in 89 buildings Downtown, with 1.5 million gallons of hot water running through 20 miles of underground pipeline per day, according to previous reporting.

The water comes from an aquifer that lies beneath Boise. It’s about 177 degrees Fahrenheit when the city extracts it with a pump near the Military Reserve archery range just northeast of Downtown.

Boise leaders have said that over the next two to three decades, they hope to eliminate, or at least sharply reduce, the use of fossil fuels for electricity within city limits. The city has scheduled several open house events through Dec. 13 to explain the renewable energy initiative and get feedback.

This is a developing story that the Idaho Statesman will update today.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the month the Statesman reported that Downtown Boise saw two major geothermal system leaks. It was last month, November.

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