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Aging pipes, weather to blame for water breaks

March 4, 2020
Ashley Fox , The Town Crier

Poor installation of pipes, aging infrastructure and the weather can be attributed to waterline breaks in the city.

Wade Calhoun, city manager, and John Rapp, public works superintendent, explained when crews are called to fix a break, the first thing they observe is the condition of the pipe.

Clay-based soil, such as in the Blueberry Hill and Neff Road areas, is a culprit in frequent breaks, Calhoun said.

Rapp added that when installing the lines, the pipes weren't properly bedded, meaning there is no insulation such as sand around the pipe.

He said they just threw the dirt back in, whether it's clay or whatever it may be, rocks, and just filled the immediate area around the pipes with the same material that was excavated.

Sand protects the pipes from any movement that occurs underground, Rapp explained.

Each time a break is reported, crews record the street where it occurred, along with the type of soil and which kind of pipe has failed.

Calhoun said the city has historically used maps to keep track of the pipes, and now those details are kept in a digital format.

"We do keep track of breaks. Any time we start to plan for repairs, we go back to that water break log to prioritize which roadways get addressed," he said.

Rapp explained that there are a couple of reasons why repairing waterline breaks may take a while.

One reason is waiting for the Ohio Utilities Protection Service. Locally, Rapp said the service contracts with third-party companies, so there is a delay until other underground utilities, such as gas lines, can be located and repair work can get underway.

In that window, Rapp said crews work on prepping their gear and the site.

"We're on site, waiting to fix a break, within a half hour to 45 minutes," Rapp said.

Another reason repairs can take a while is due to how the pipe breaks. If the break goes the length of the pipe, Rapp said it is harder to fix.

Circumferential breaks, which occur around the pipe, need a clamp and are typically easier to repair.

The line breaks, while annoying, are not unheard of, Calhoun said.

"It's not uncommon for any water system to experience intermittent water main breaks," he said.

As soon as the city learns of a break, officials use local, online media to alert residents. Crews go to residences as well, alerting homeowners of a boil alert, if necessary.

Once a line is repaired, Rapp said samples are submitted for any possible contaminants and a boil alert is put in place for 48 hours.

Calhoun said motorists and police officers driving through the city often alert officials to a break, after they see excess water in an area.

Other times, residents notice they have low water pressure.

Unfortunately, Calhoun said there are times when a break goes undetected because there is minimal impact.

As a preventive measure, Calhoun said the city used Leak Seekers, an underground water leak detection service, to check if there were any leaks in pipes.

Five small leaks were found, and one "significant" leak was detected that flowed into a sewer on Hilltop Road.

One area that seems to experience a high volume of breaks is Bradford Drive. Calhoun said since 2019, there have been 26 breaks, and it is a priority to fix the lines.



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