An effort to clean out old water lines downtown to combat “red water” and low-pressure ended up taking quite a bit longer than Richmond Utility officials expected this week.
The water line work, which was scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, actually went well into the night with some houses on Woodland Avenue not getting water service back until Wednesday afternoon.
Also, residents along Woodland Avenue, Glyndon Avenue and Moberly Avenue between Third and Fifth streets who did get their water service back Tuesday night were under a routine 24-hour boil water advisory.
Water Quality Specialist Lonnie Banks said a boil-water advisory is issued any time a main water line has been opened up to the air and possible contaminants.
After water samples were tested, the boil-water advisory was lifted late Wednesday afternoon.
Water Superintendent Danny Pearson said the aging water lines downtown have posed significant problems for people living in the area. Some of the pipelines date back to the 1930s, he said.
Build-up within the lines has caused pipes to get smaller, reducing water pressure. Also, especially in the hot temperatures of summer, some of the build-up can breakaway into the water, causing rusty, or “red water” to come out of residents’ taps.
“We’ve had to deal with more red water for the past few months,” Pearson said.
Hydrants along several downtown streets were being flushed on an almost daily basis to combat the discolored water problem, according to Banks.
Another problem affecting downtown water flow quality is residential usage has declined as more houses have become vacant, Pearson said. Manual hydrant flushing also has been used to deal that issue, which can affect the water flow to nearby occupied houses.
In the past, Richmond Utilities typically replaced, or re-lined, areas where the pipes had narrowed significantly. However, this time the utility tried a new process to clean out the pipes.
“It’s the first time we’ve done this,” Pearson said.
Because it was the first time, Pearson said the work took longer than expected and some problems were encountered. A few service lines to houses along Woodland Avenue needed repair, and water was shut off for longer periods to those homes. There also was a break to a main water line during the work.
“We’ve had quite a bit of trouble,” Pearson said.
If the water pressure and discolored water problems are resolved in the Woodland/Glyndon area, the utility hopes to use the same cleaning process in other areas of downtown, Pearson said. But first the utility will have to look at the how successful the cleaning was, plus its cost effectiveness and the length of service disruption to water customers, Pearson noted.
PVC pipe is a petroleum-based product that has increased in cost as oil prices have risen. Pearson said the price of PVC pipe has tripled in the past six years, so looking at alternative means of cleaning up the water lines has been a priority.
To clean out the water main, utility workers dug holes into the road along Woodland Avenue that were later covered with a temporary gravel mixture. Pearson said after that has settled for a week or two, the city will repave those areas.
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