The Herald Bulletin

January 9, 2014

City's million-gallon water leak alarms officials

Anderson's rate hike request put on hold

By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON – The Anderson Water Department was searching for the source of an unexplained increase in water usage of 1 million gallons on Thursday.

As a result of the leak, the administration of Mayor Kevin Smith withdrew from Thursday's City Council agenda two proposed resolutions for a 47 percent hike in water rates and approval to issue $14.3 million in bonds for infrastructure improvements for the water department.

Pete Heuer, chairman of the Anderson Board of Public Works, said the two ordinances were pulled so that Tom Brewer, superintendent of the Water Department, could focus on finding the cause of the increased water usage.

“We’re experiencing a major leak at this time,” Heuer said. “We’re using the manpower that would have made presentations to the council to find where the water is being lost.”

Heuer said there is a small amount of daily leakage from the water system, but the 1 million gallons are unaccounted for and above normal.

“The situation is troublesome because of the snow cover,” he said. “That makes it difficult to find any leaks. Right now we want to isolate and locate the unaccounted for water loss.”

The Anderson Water Pollution Control Department is monitoring the flow in sewer mains in an effort to find the leak.

A year ago the city experienced two water main breaks as a result of freezing and thawing.

“We were anticipating a possible problem,” Heuer said.

City officials said no local businesses have been impacted by the water loss.

Heuer said the administration will probably wait until the council meeting on Feb. 13 for consideration of the rate increase and bond request.

Smith said the leak places an emphasis on the challenge the city has with the water system.

“Many of the main water lines were installed before World War II,” he said. “If you don’t do annual maintenance and repair, you fall behind.

“The water lines have not been addressed for seven years,” Smith said. “Politicians are not willing to ask for a rate increase to pay for maintenance and repairs.”

Smith said Thursday's unaccounted for loss was discovered when Water Department employees noticed the system’s pumping rate was above normal usage levels.

According to the city’s website, the Water Department provides 10 million gallons of water per day. The normal daily loss from leakage is between 1.5 million and 2.5 million gallons.

On Jan. 17, 2013, the city experienced two major water main breaks. The leak was discovered when an Anderson Municipal Light & Power employee noticed water bubbling up from the ground between the Wheeler Avenue pumping station and the White River.

The two breaks were releasing 4,000 gallons per hour into the White River. The leaks were attributed to decaying of the infrastructure.

The administration is seeking approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory to increase the minimum user cost for approximately 3,000 gallons of water from $6.26 and to $12.26. For the average homeowner using up to 5,000 gallons of water per month, the current rate is $18.98 and may increase to $27.88.

Brewer said Wednesday that the bond issue will be used for the construction of a new water treatment plant, replacement of water mains and upgrading the city’s well fields.

The city plans to replace the Lafayette Water Treatment Plant. Brewer said engineers have determined it’s more cost effective to build a new plant instead of upgrading the existing one.

Proceeds from the bond issue will be used to replace several miles of 2-inch water mains with a 6-inch main in the Homewood addition. The area to be constructed extends from Rangeline Road west to Scatterfield Road and from Tenth Street north to Indiana 32.

The city issued $5.3 million in bonds for the water department in 2006 and the outstanding amount is $4.1 million.

Follow Ken de la Bastide @KendelaBastide on Twitter, or call 640-4863.