Even small water leaks take time and employees

I hate it just as much as you do when I see it. It’s that slow trickle of water down the gutter on a dry day that signifies a water leak. You might spot it one day on your daily walk or from your car as you commute to work. On the next day it is still there. Then three days later, it is still there and you think “What are those lazy bums at the city doing? Why can’t they come and fix this water leak?” Fixing a water leak is no easy job. Two weeks ago I left my tie at home and donned work pants, a reflective vest, and joined one of our two-man water crews as they went out to fix a leak on Florida Street. Jackhammers and backhoes removed the road and with the careful care of an archaeologist digging for lost gold, the team uncovered the pipes that were the problem. An old connection had failed due to age and a new connection and new service lone would have to be made. Carefully, in order to avoid busting the sidewalk, the crew attached a new length of copper pipe to the old and pulled the old through a hole dug in the customer’s yard. The new service line was connected to the water main using a hand tapping and cutting tool that was affectionately referred to as “the beast.” The hole was filed in and road base was put in and packed. Once it all dries a crew will come back and repave that portion of the road. I enjoyed working alongside our water crew, and I admired how careful they were in the customer’s yard, the ingenuity used to avoid having to break out the sidewalk, and their focus on safety which keeps injuries low and keeps costs down as well. In all, the actual repair work took about six hours, and that eats up a large part of an employee’s eight-hour workday. However, this leak had been leaking for nearly two weeks and that begs the question “Why did it take the city so long to get the job done?” When you notify us of a water leak, a public works employee goes out to the site of the leak and takes a good look at what is happening. The employee determines if the leak is coming from the public water system or from a privately owned water line. If the water line is a city owned line, the employee then tries to gauge the severity of the leak. Then the employee creates a wok order from the leak, prioritizing the leak on the repair schedule based on its severity. Bigger leaks are repaired first. Once the work order is generated, the staff at Public Works notifies the underground utility locating service by calling 811 and notifying them of our intent to repair a leaking underground water pipe. By state law, the 811 service is required to be notified and they have three full business days to come out to the site, identify all of the underground utilities, such as gas lines, cable, fiber, and telephone lines, and clear the site for excavation. We cannot proceed until this step is completed. If the city calls 811 on Monday, we are not cleared to excavate and make the repair until Friday. Monday is our notification day and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the three days that 811 has to come out and mark all underground utilities in the area. If we call in on Tuesday, we are not clear to make the repair until the following Monday because weekend days do not count in the three day requirement. Already, a week will have passed before work can begin. After 811 has cleared us for excavation, the repair is scheduled based on how bad the leak is. With only two teams of two people responsible for the maintenance and repair of 104 miles of underground water lines, you can imagine that it can be a couple of weeks before they get around to repairing that small leak that you see on the side of the road. It’s frustrating to see that leak. I know it is. However, it is important to understand that in many cases, the city is waiting on the underground utilities to be identified and for a crew to be free to repair the leak, and with even the smallest leak taking several hours to excavate and repair, the process is not going to be as quick as any of us would like it to be. We thank you for your patience, and I know that our hardworking water maintenance workers appreciate your understanding of the process. (Frank Stovall is city manager of Clinton.)

My Clinton News

P.O. Box 180
513 North Broad St.
Clinton, SC 29325
Phone: (864) 833-1900
Fax: (864) 833-1902

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