Water leakage study pinpoints problems, fixes some

Friday, May 21, 2010

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- Holiday Island's pilot leak study program over the last five months has produced some encouraging results for the suburban improvement district, the Board of Commissioners heard at its monthly work session Monday.

Mike Mathis of Mathis, Carter & Associates said the study, which began last October but was delayed due to weather and holidays, was done on the island proper by a contractor certified in water systems. The $10,000 study included fixing several leaks.

"We fixed 32 gpm' (gallons per minute) worth of leaks and have found about that same amount that haven't been fixed," Mathis said. "That's 45,000 gallons per day."

He said check valves and pressure-reducing valves were also examined. Some were found that were closed for no reason and some had been reopened.

"We found a major leaking check valve at Rocky Top that was allowing 65,000 gpd (gallons per day) to drain back into the lower system," he said.

Rocky Top, the highest point on the island, has a water storage tank that holds 86,000 gallons of usable water.

"Rocky Top drains so quickly; it's like gaining your storage back. If you had to pay for that storage, it would cost $100,000 to $150,000," he said.

"We put a new check valve in. We also put in a main isolation valve at Rocky Top. From now on, the district can use that valve to check for leaks. We anticipate installing more of those main valves throughout the system that the district can use to check for leaks."

The 32 gpm leaks are in the service mains, Mathis said, those which run from the main line in the street to the meter. They are the district's responsibility.

Even leaks of 2 to 8 gpm can be substantial over time, he said.

The district pays 30 to 40 cents per 1,000 gallons for water in electricity for pumping costs and for chlorine.

"If you went with Carroll-Boone, you'd pay $2 to $3 minimum per 1,000 gallons, and that's not including the cost of running the lines out here."

He said the district is "lucky," sitting as it does over the Roubidoux Aquifer.

"We recommend continuing the annual study," he said, "and that you appropriate more funds. We'd look at lines through the green zones that are hidden instead of being in the road. It's an ongoing process, but it generally pays for itself within the year, and not just in storage."

Commissioner Peter Putnam asked whether the repairs were routine maintenance or because of defects.

"Both," Mathis said. "We found some valves that don't work at all. The system is close to 40 years old, and things wear out."

District Manager Kevin Crosson said problems were due predominantly to neglect. One cause of that is that a leak detection program can only be done at night when people are asleep and aren't normally using water.

Mathis said doing the full program and fixing everything on the mainland could take five to 10 years.

"The district has been good about keeping on top of fixing leaks when they find them," he said.

He said now is a good time to keep up with the leak detection program because the slow economy is making contractors more available.

Chairman Bruce Larson suggested allocating more money to the project.

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