System upgrade means fewer leaks
Hillsboro residents west of Birch St., between Grand and D Sts. had quite a spectacle Monday, as many were without water, but could see it running fast in the streets.
The valve shut-off started at 9 a.m. and ran all day, leaving those in the target area without water.
Hillsboro is building a new water line in the southwest quadrant. Contractors have been laying pipe in preparation for the switch.
The difficult part was finding the source of water flow, city administrator Larry Paine said. City workers started by closing the valve at W. Grand and Hickory Sts., then worked their way east and south.
“It’s just a matter of working our way away from that location to shut off the water flow,” he said. “What we’ve found is we don’t know where it is that’s going to shut this thing off.”
The project serves a dual purpose, maintaining health standards and improving efficiency.
The old pipes are asbestos concrete, which is no longer up to Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s codes, so Hillsboro is replacing them with plastic pipes to meet future regulations.
“We know KDHE doesn’t accept that kind of pipe anymore, so we’re trying to limit the amount of AC pipe in our system,” he said. “That’s what a good portion of our program is about, taking that out of service and putting in plastic pipe.”
With the changes, the water department will be able to find the proper valve, making repairs easier going forward.
“By installing that, we can control everything along Grand St. to a very high degree,” he said. “We limit the outages to several homes, as opposed to hundreds of homes.”
As a resident on Date St., Keith Holtsclaw lives directly in the impact zone, and looks forward to the upgrade.
“I don’t see any problem with this,” he said. “Somebody might start complaining about it, but they don’t realize they’re upgrading. We’re going to be better off and there won’t be so many people fixing water leaks.”
Before he retired, Holtsclaw worked for a company specializing in water holding systems and water towers, and handled his home plumbing when he lived in Kansas City.
City councilman David Loewen lives on Wilson St., one of the most leak-prone areas from the first phase of replacements in the fall.
He had five water breaks near his home in the past 10 to 12 years, so Loewen understood the need for improvements.
“That area had some really interesting plumbing stuff that was done 30 or 40 years ago that needs to be replaced,” he said. “It’s kind of scary thinking about what they have under there. I’m glad they’re getting it done, for their sake.”
The replacements will cost $950,000, but that is considerably less than the original estimate of more than $1 million, Paine said.
The goal is to finance the project between the existing revenue stream and a recent bond payoff, which added $200,000 to the department’s budget.
If the replacements go as planned, there will be minimal increase to water rates, if at all, Paine said.
The project should save the city money by decreasing the frequency of leaks, he said.
“We’re leaking water that has been processed and ready to sell,” Paine said. “If it goes down the curb, I can’t sell it to a customer and that becomes lost revenue.”
As part of the project, the city is updating its water distribution map, which will save headaches and labor costs, he said. The current map doesn’t list every pipe, and some have incorrect measurements.
This makes maintaining an inventory difficult, and can lead to the wrong pipes being brought for repairs, Paine said.
“Over the 10 years I’ve been here, we’ve been updating that map to be certain of what’s in the ground, where it is, what it’s made of, and what’s the pipe size,” he said. “It’s part of our asset management program so when something happens we know the kind of parts we need.”