The Pressure's On

Published 4:47 pm Thursday, July 10, 2014

FARMVILLE — The 127-foot tall, one million-gallon water tank structure on Andrews Drive is full and coming soon to a shower, tub and kitchen sink in your home.

“It’s not really on line yet,” Town Manager Gerald Spates said this week. “We’ve got it full but we’re working out all the kinks in the system. It’s up and running. We don’t have it tied into the system yet but we’re working towards that. Hopefully it will be some time this week.”

The new water tank will increase water pressure throughout the town and, like Brazil’s World Cup soccer team, not all of the town’s pipes have been able handle the pressure.

Email newsletter signup

Even though the water tank had not yet been incorporated into Farmville’s water system, a series of waterline breaks developed as the Town increased water pressure to fill the 75-foot wide water tank, which bears the Longwood University logo.

The increased pressure broke through several sections of vulnerable waterline around town.

“Yes, it did, filling that tank up,” Spates said, when asked if the new water tank had contributed to the rash of waterline breaks. “We had to increase the pressure.”

Far more important, of course, than a handful of waterline breaks as the water tank is brought on line are the benefits from the increased water pressure that will be felt in homes and businesses thanks to the $4.2 million project, which included the installation of new 18-inch water mains.

“It’ll give us pressures throughout the town and we’ll be able, once everything’s in operation, to run the (water) system more efficiently and it won’t cost as much to operate,” Spates pointed out.

The increased water pressure can, in the long-term, also improve the town’s ISO rating, which could lower insurance premium rates for residents because the town-wide water pressure increase will positively impact firefighting.

“Oh yeah, yeah,” Spates said of the benefit to firefighters, “it sure will.”

The waterline breaks, meanwhile, come with the territory.

Tuesday’s waterline break on North Street is an example illustrating the point.

“We’ve got increased pressures throughout town but that had an old split in it that I guess was repaired before I came here, 40 years ago, because the clamp was still on it. Generally, when a pipe splits like that the split could—I’m sure the pressure probably had something to do with it—but it may have split anyway.”

The decades-old repair clamp’s bolts were nearly rusted off.

A waterline break waiting to happen.

“Primarily, you’re going to have trouble in the older sections in town,” Spates said.

Looking at it from the glass is half full of water pressure perspective, the town manager reckons the increased pressure, in the long run, may have done Town workers a favor by revealing the vulnerable water pipe sections.

Repairing a broken waterline is never fun but a summer Tuesday afternoon is preferable, in some ways at least, to 2 a.m. on a bitterly cold January night.

As Spates said of the North Street waterline, “eventually it probably would have busted anyway.”

The same was true for the other breaks during the past week-plus. Helpful, strangely enough, from that perspective.

“Oh, yeah and I think every one of these (leaks) that we worked on probably would have been a problem eventually anyway, whether we did anything or not. In one of them, the pipe was damaged during construction,” Spates said. “The one we did on Main Street downtown that was an old valve that they left in there when they built that street back in 1967 and just with the increased pressures it started leaking and all we did was turn it a quarter turn and shut it off.

“We expected some issues. We’re just slowly getting the system changed over so that we don’t have any big major problems. The engineer’s here. He’ll be here most of the week while we’re doing some adjustments on these valves,” the town manager continued.

The Town’s biggest water tank may be on line by the time you read this story. If not, it’s just a matter of days, officials say.

It joins the elevated storage tank in Jackson Heights, capacity 400,000 gallons, and the 250,000-gallon elevated storage tank on South Main.

As for the rash of waterline breaks, Spates told town council Wednesday night that “it hasn’t been terrible, but it has been aggravating.”

Residents who believe their water pressure increases too much can contact the Town about having a pressure reducing valve installed.