Streamline - Summer 2012 - (Page 43)
Missing Water Found
BY DANIEL MORROW
AFTER ONE OF the best Christmas seasons in Middleburg since the onset of the great recession, town staff began the new year
by reporting further significant, and arguably outstanding, progress on two fronts: 1) an ancient, elusive, and massive water leak and 2) longstanding issues with the town’s police rules, regulations and standing orders.
The 300,000-Gallon Leak
VRWA’S Reynolds used high tech listening devices to eventually discover the great 300,000 gallon leak, moving from valve to valve and pipe to pipe along the system.
With the help of the Virginia Rural Water Association, the town appears to have found and fixed a massive and elusive leak in the town’s water distribution system that, according to first estimates, may well have dumped as much as 300,000 gallons of treated water per month into the town’s sewers. The leak, which had mystified engineers and plagued the town’s financial auditors for years, had escaped detection, officials said, because they were both singularly tidy and very, very quiet. According to Kenny Reynolds, a 30-year veteran of the Salem, Va. water department and now a “circuit rider” with VRWA, water was pouring from an ancient galvanized pipe, buried under 12 feet or more of fill dirt off Blue Ridge Avenue, near the rear access to the Middleburg Volunteer Fire Department. Reynolds said purified water poured from the leak, and instead of bubbling to the surface, ran directly into a sewer line, accessible only from a 12-foot deep brick-lined “manhole.” From there, the water ran downhill to a pumping station, which moved it to the town’s long-beleaguered waste-water treatment system. There, it was purified for a second time and dumped back into the environment, presumably to feed wells and start the process all over again. There was no evidence of the leak on the surface of the ground near the fire station at all. Closer investigation of the ground near a creek, well below the Windy Hill complex adjacent to the Fire House, revealed that some of the lost water may have wound up there. Apparently, no one had suspected that the
marshy ground near the creek was the result of anything other than natural processes.
The 300,000-Gallon Cost
The primary direct cost of the leak, estimated at 300,000 gallons a month, 900,000 gallons a quarter, or 3.6 million gallons a year, has been, of course, the cost of purifying the water for consumption before it leaked and then purifying again, for release into the environment. To that should be added the cost, mechanical, financial and environmental effects of constantly pumping and throwing away millions of gallons of well water. Water rates in Middleburg are currently $42.36 for the first 2,000 gallons; $14.94 for each 1,000 gallons thereafter. As for most small, rural communities with their own systems, Middleburg’s rates are predictably higher than four larger communities due, among other things, to the town’s smaller customer base over which to spread operating costs. Rates are also affected by water leaks, aging water meters that tend to slow down over time, and billing accuracy, all problems exacerbated in a town with infrastructure as old as Middleburg, with a population barely approaching 700 people. Middleburg, according to Town Administrator Semmes, has made it a priority this year to address the unaccounted for water loss problem in earnest and in a systematic comprehensive way, including the water leak detection study by VRWA, initiating a meter replacement program and updating the town’s utility billing software. In Middleburg, user fees, as a rule, pay for running and maintaining the water distribution and waste water treatment systems and debt
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Summer 2012
From the President
From the Executive Director
Summer Conservation Considerations
Southampton County: A Story of Progress
Board Members Quiz
Conference 2012 Highlights
The Town of Lebanon-One Small Step for Man
Drakes Branch Distribution System Upgrade
A Proper Rate-Virginia RATES Program
Missing Water Found
Throwing My Loop
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
Welcome New Members
Board of Directors
Index to Advertisers/Ad.com
Streamline - Summer 2012