Charlotte Observer (NC)
(c) Copyright 2002, The Charlotte Observer. All Rights Reserved.
Sunday, August 18, 2002
Water pipes break as ground dries Rock Hill is losing resource to
With the drought hardening the earth like a good fall
underground pipes are cracking and spewing water at about double the
usual rate, city officials said.
Water is leaking by the gallon even as leaders tell
residents to turn
off their taps.
Concerned, the city has bumped up the number of workers
fix line breaks -- hiring contractors to help city employees and
They still can't keep up. The backlog of leaks has risen
40 to 50, Assistant Utilities Director Jimmy Bagley said last week.
We've dedicated all our water staff to work on our water
said. "It's hard to catch up."
When it hasn't rained, the soil dries up and contracts,
ground to shift. The earth then puts pressure on the pipes until they
break, he said.
"When you have moisture, the soil tends to be more
There are other stressors as well. In the sweltering
sun, water heats
while sitting in elevated storage tanks and then runs through metal
pipes whose temperature is lower.
Residents who've been asked to reduce their water use by
10 to 15
percent are lighting up the city's phones to report water trickling down
their streets or bubbling out of the ground.
The city has been under mandatory water restrictions
since July 31.
Workers, however, have had to prioritize the complaints
based on how
bad the leak is, Bagley said.
It's typical for workers to respond to about 15 or 20
leaks a week
this time of year, he said. About twice that amount are being reported
Most have been small breaks. The largest pipe to crack
was 6 inches
in diameter, he said.
The city doesn't measure how much water is being lost,
Director Nick Stegall estimated 15 percent of the water carried by the
city's system goes unaccounted for each year.
City Council member Maxine Gill has complained about the
years, urging that more money be dedicated to improving the utility
"We're just going to have to appropriate more money,"
she said. "I've
been after it for years and years."
This year's budget includes a few hundred thousand
dollars more to
repair leaks or replace pipes, she said.
"It's just that we've got an old system," she said.
"We've got sewers
that are almost a hundred years old."