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Weingart: Many possible causes for large leak

July 6, 2012

WASHINGTONVILLE - A large water loss in May could be attributable to a number of causes, according to Salem Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart.

Washingtonville is a customer of the Salem utilities department.

The loss was discussed at Monday's village council meeting after the issue was raised in a letter by Utilities Superintendent Brian Gudat.

The loss, set at 980,000 gallons for May, amounts to 44 percent of the metered use in the village.

Already contending with a five-gallon per minute leak at the Washingtonville Plaza, Mayor Will Jones said there must be another break.

The village had commissioned a company to survey the water system for leaks at the plaza when that leak was detected on the "customer side" of the meter.

Jones said that issue is still unresolved.

"I just don't see with that one (to be repaired there) that we're losing 44 percent of our water," he said.

Weingart is familiar with the company, Marion-based Underground Utility Services, noting Salem has used it.

"But," he said, "the one thing about Washingtonville is they have PVC lines and PVC doesn't send up a noise. The only way they check is by listening device" that magnifies the noise.

Weingart explained they almost have to do it at night to negate background interference that includes tire noise from vehicle traffic since water lines usually run in right-of-ways.

Weingart said Underground Utility is a pretty good company, "although nobody has anything that's perfect."

He said there is new equipment available that puts values on noises. Sometime after it is set up it can identify and differentiate noises.

"Turn on a faucet and it can be heard. The trouble is you have to have the reading equipment," Weingart said.

Salem carries about a 20 percent water loss which includes city owned property (free water) and public buildings along with drip losses from old lines with cast iron and lead joint connections.

He said any place claiming less than a 15 percent loss "is fudging their numbers."

Weingart also noted that meters "slow down with age" and fire hydrants are also a source of leakage.

"I'd say that'd be the first thing I'd check," he said, adding, "you have to really listen carefully with an earphone attachment to them.

"We've had several cases like that, nine out of 10 were opened and didn't quite get closed tightly or a piece of dirt got in the valve."

He said the hydrants go four to five feet underground with a gravel pack around the pipe that allows leaked to percolate into the ground.

The dripping never stops and a couple of leaks every 18 to 20 feet can add up.

"You have quite a bit," he said.

He explained that a 10-gallon per minute leak can add up to 430,000 gallons in a month adding that a garden house can do four to five gallons a minute.

"I guess I would check any meters (too)," Weingart said, adding that everyone is conscientious of water loss because of the loss of revenue. But with everything under the ground, it's difficult to fix."

Weingart also noted that leaks don't always mean sink holes will form.

A message was left for Gudat for a comment on this story but not returned.

Larry Shields can be reached at



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