City nearing end of fixing rusty pipes

12/24/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

After receiving numerous complaints about rust-colored water, Garden City hired a contractor to begin work in October to clean over 4,400 feet of cast iron water mains in an area from Second Street to Theron Place, and south from Kansas Avenue to Hackberry Street.

In a progress report about the project, Fred Jones, water resource manager, said Goddard-based Mayer Specialty Services has cleaned 4,403 feet of water main in that area, and an additional 842 feet of water main along Ninth Street from Kansas Avenue to Buffalo Jones.

"We're nearly totally done," Jones said. "We have two streets to do yet. We have two blocks of cleaning to do on Hazel, and a couple blocks on Hackberry and then we'll be finished with the project. At least this stage of it."

Completed water main cleanings include Second Street from Kansas to Hackberry; First Street, Evans Street and Theron Place between Pats Drive and Hackberry; and Kansas from Second Street to Belmont.

Pending streets include Hackberry between Evans and Center streets, and Hazel between Second Street and Evans.

A water main replacement has been proposed along Lyle Avenue from Pats Drive to Hackberry. The city will seek an engineering and construction estimate in the near future to get a cost estimate for the replacement which will address water supply issues on Lyle, Howard and Perry Place.

Jones said currently the water mains that serve that area are difficult to access with some running behind properties or through easements in people's yards.

Jones said the city is looking to address other areas of town where people have reported problems with rusty water.

"We've been keeping track of complaints that we've received from customers," Jones said. "We'll collect that information and I'll be visiting with the public utilities director in the future to determine what the next phase of projects will include."

During the project, cleaning took place in sections of about 400 feet at a time, both to accommodate Mayer's equipment and to minimize disruption to water customers. New valves were installed in many locations to allow lines to be isolated. Those valves can be beneficial in the future to isolate lines for preventive maintenance, planned replacement or emergency repairs.

"When we are cleaning water mains, that main has to be opened up and completely disconnected. Those customers probably experienced a disruption in their water services of about four hours on average," Jones said.

Cast iron water mains are ripe for corrosion and rust built up inside the pipe after many years of use. The city has identified several areas where the aging cast iron water mains are causing complaints about rusty water and pressure problems.

During the cleaning process, the contractor and city staff ran into a significant amount of tuberculation, the term for the built up corrosion, in the mains. Some were so clogged no light could be seen through just a three foot section of pipe.

"Any steel or cast iron water mains that were installed in the 60s need some kind of attention," Mike Muirhead, public utilities director said. "The ones we're doing now are four-inch mains, and the smallest you put in today are six-inch PVC so we won't run into this in the future. All new installations are fine."

Cleaning the water mains involves a process called "pigging." The process starts with using a water jet to clean out the bulk of the corrosion, and then there are two types of pigs pushed through the pipe. A small drum is run through the pipe that knocks off the rust from the sides. A progressively bigger drum, or "pig," is run through the pipe several times to remove the buildup.

The first pig is a piece of foam wrapped in heavy cotton batting and a PVC-like coating, while the second pig is a harder material covered in poly-type fiber brushes, similar to a kitchen or tool brush, that scrapes along the pipe.

"When they insert those in the line, they have water pressure behind them. That's what shoves that particular pig through the line and it cleans the line out. It does a pretty good job of reducing the corrosion in the lines," Jones said.

The cleaning process resulted in five water main breaks, causing the city to replace 72 feet of water line during the project.

The city put $127,500 toward the project. Over the summer, the city also took steps to create a pool of money that can be used annually to address water infrastructure needs like cleaning of rust-encrusted water mains.

As part of a water rate increase primarily needed to pay for a rate increase passed through to the city by Wheatland Electric Cooperative, Garden City adjusted rates enough to also set aside roughly $300,000 a year for water projects.

"We'll put together a program for the city commission to consider," Muirhead said. "We would recommend A, B and C, but they could certainly change it around and do what they think is best."

Muirhead said the city is working with PEC, an engineering firm from Wichita, on finishing up the water master plan. The water master plan will include things the city needs to do to improve the water system.

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