Leak detection turns up 68 spills from city pipes

Sean C. Morgan

A contractor has located 68 leaks in the City of Sweet Home’s water distribution system, and crews have repaired about 17 of them, according to Public Works Director Greg Springman.

American Leak Detection surveyed 46.8 miles of water lines in November, looking for leaks that may account for a ongoing discrepancies, from about 35 percent to as high as 50 percent, between the amount of water the city produces and the amount that is metered. The city is paying $17,000 for the work.

Sweet Home produces roughly 1 million gallons of water per day. Springman said the leaks located by American Leak Detection may be responsible for the loss of 192,000 to 243,000 gallons of water per day. Additional factors in the discrepancies include the use of fire hydrants, which is not metered, for example.

American Leak Detection listens for the sound of leaks to find and estimate the size of a leak.

The majority of leaks are in the service lines, with some 120,000 gallons per day leaking out of the system. The main lines are leaking an estimated 100,000 gallons per day, while the contractor found leaks at valves, hydrants and meters as well, accounting for about 4,000 gallons per day.

The contractor found a total of 15 leaks on main lines, 12 at hydrants, one at a valve, six at meters and 34 on service lines, which run from the main line to the meter.

By Friday, a Public Works crew dedicated to leak repair had fixed 15 of them, with a couple more on Thursday, Springman said. The crew, with members pulled from different regular crews, is spending one day a week working on repairs, fixing two to three per week.

The crew has already significantly reduced water loss, about 100,000 gallons per day, Springman said.

He said the city may have other leaks, and it’s going to calibrate and certify the discharge meter at the Water Treatment Plant, which is used to measure how much water the city produces, to ensure it is reading water production accurately.

“We’re dealing in some areas with a corroded system,” Springman said. When Public Works fixes the list of known leaks, Public Works will still need to go through and analyze the system for additional leaks.

“Two leaks we did last week were not on the report,” he said.

The sounds of additional leaks may been covered up by the leaks the contractor did find, and the system will suffer from additional corrosion too.

Leaks along some streets are “just horrible,” Springman said. Those will be pushed to the front of the list as soon as possible for full replacement if necessary.

Springman said he will provide a detailed presentation to the council later this month and post it to the city’s website.

“Looking forward for Public Works, we’re going to look into purchasing the leak detection equipment,” he said. The city has leak detection gear, but it’s not as sophisticated as what the contractor was using. The city will train staff members to use the new equipment, and Public Works will survey for leaks on an ongoing basis.

Not only does the city waste money producing extra water when it just leaks away and never goes through a meter, he said the leaks cause other damage, displacing the dirt under the roadways.

“It can do a lot of damage,” Springman said.