City officials pinpoint cause of major water loss

Thursday, September 25, 2008
A large hole in a sewer pipe allowed water from a water pipe to flow into the system undetected.

Who knew the answer to the city's water problem could be so simple? And the funny thing is, it came by way of a clogged toilet.

For weeks, water plant officials have struggled to figure out where as much as 25 percent of the city's water was going each month -- a 20-percent loss on the year.

Meters throughout the city were checked. The water plant was given a good once-over and officials racked their brains for a good while trying to come up with a solution.

Picture shows section of copper piping with hole that officials believe was the source of a major water leak for Greencastle, accounting for a daily water loss of 340,000 gallons

But a solution came this week when a utility worker, responding to a homeowner's report of a backed-up toilet, found the answer to the city's water troubles in the front yard.

Utilities Superintendent George Russell told delighted members of the Greencastle Board of Public Works Wednesday that the worker was walking down the sidewalk in front of the home and felt a vibration under his feet.

After digging up the area, he was surprised to find a ruptured water line. But the story doesn't end there.

Russell said the worker discovered that water from the broken pipe was flowing directly into a hole in another pipe -- this one: a city sewer pipe. This meant that water from the water pipe was directly entering the sewage system, rather than rising up to the surface of the ground where it could have easily been detected.

"This could easily account for at least 50 percent of the water loss," Russell told the board. "Who knows how long this has been going on?"

Russell calculated that the 1-inch hole in the pipe represented a loss of 350 gallons of water a minute, or 340,000 gallons of water per day.

"It's pretty amazing, really. It's just luck that we found it," Russell said with a chuckle.

The leaky pipe has since been repaired and Russell anticipates the water plant will quickly begin to notice a decrease in the amount of lost water.

"This should get us close to 10 percent (water loss)," he said.

A 10-percent loss is considered acceptable in most cities, Russell said.

Meanwhile, Russell plans to continue looking at ways to minimize water loss for the city, including, as he said last month, checking and replacing meters that may lack accuracy.

"But this is definitely a step in the right direction," he said.

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  • 350 gallons a minute = 504,000 gallons a day.

    That's a lot of water spewing through that little hole. Just doesn't make since.

    -- Posted by hoop2077 on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 12:17 AM
  • That's 5.83 milk jugs full of water a second.

    -- Posted by hoop2077 on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 12:41 AM
  • Bondsman:

    If it's my house that's on fire, I would rather have their pumper at 1500 gpm through a 3 inch hose than your 350 gpm!

    -- Posted by Geologist on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 7:40 AM
  • I want to know where this problem was. That's an important part of this story.

    -- Posted by Light in the Dark on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 9:00 AM
  • Is that snow on the ground? I take it the it was a stock phot and not the real deal.

    -- Posted by Nick | Nack on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 9:24 AM
  • It doesn't look like snow to me - looks more like gravel or concrete dust.

    -- Posted by Scripted Spontaneity on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 10:26 AM
  • I'm just surprised it wasn't Spiker who found it. That saved a few bucks.

    -- Posted by whodouthinkur on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 2:16 PM
  • OK well all sounds good but the BIG ? why greencastle do u have the pressure up to dis charge this much.TOWN THIS SIZE 60 TO 85 WILL RUN DAILY NEEDS.emmmmm who controls the press. valves.ALSO look at the water drops in the roads to the prop.,they are failing and so is the road from the extra press.

    -- Posted by BIG DOG DADDY on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 1:51 PM
  • Just now had time to read the article. All kinds of figures and comments. Mr Russel's figures don't add up but it's just a rough guess for it's diffucult to be accurate even with all the factors taken in consideration, the 340,000 gallons a day is possible through a 1" hole, and it most likely would have been noticed immediately if it had blown out at once, that hole started out small and developed into a one inch hole which would show a gradual increase in water and sewer records and hard to pick up on because of other factors that could cause the same increase, when billing is done is when you know for sure there is a problem and really start searching hard. If it was an immediate blowout, that amount of flow would have most likely come to the surface because it's unlikely a channel would have been made to the sewer line to begin with. It was a very good catch by the employee. OH, 10 percent loss is very acceptable if the figures are accurate, and I would't want to be around someone trying to put 1500gpm through a 3" hose.

    -- Posted by sadNmad on Mon, Sep 29, 2008, at 11:25 PM
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