Water leaks and outages affect all water systems. Starting in 2021, however, our system began seeing a significant increase in such incidents, especially in South Elkins. This year, Elkins water system workers have responded to dozens of leaks in South Elkins. Although many of these leaks were repaired “under pressure” and did not require water to be turned off, that part of our city experienced 19 water outages during 2021.
There are various factors contributing to this situation, and fully addressing all of them will take a significant amount of time and money.
Follow this link for answers to frequently asked questions about why this is happening and what we are doing about it. (While you’re at it, please consider signing up for City of Elkins Nixle alerts so you can receive advance notification of water outages, in addition to other important emergency information.)
Last modified on December 10th, 2021 at 05:02 pm
There is clearly an unacceptable number of ongoing water outages and sometimes resulting Boil Water Notices.
What is going on?
One major reason is that many underground water lines in Elkins are past their end-of-life and need to be replaced.
The reason problems have spiked lately in South Elkins, however, is related to the great amount of soil disturbance that occurred as part of the sewer/stormwater separation project earlier this year. (It appears that the soil under much of South Elkins is *extremely* soft and bordering on liquid in places.)
Making things even worse are the large number of broken valves throughout our system. Valves are used to turn off the flow of water to certain sections of the system.
In a perfect world, for last night’s repair on Whiteman Avenue, we could have closed a valve that would have caused an outage for only a small number of surrounding customers.
However, because many of the smaller valves are not functioning, it is necessary to instead turn off valves on larger mains, which results in outages over a much wider area. (This is one reason why our water workers often attempt to make repairs “under pressure,” meaning without turning off the water, to avoid these outages. This means they must work with spraying water, which is obviously less practical as the weather gets colder.)
So, what is the city doing about this?
Council has dedicated a portion of ARPA funds to an engineering study and plan for the systematic replacement and upgrading of the city’s water lines. Although we won’t know exact costs of such a project until this study is complete, it will likely cost tens of millions of dollars.
Addressing this problem is a current focus of council and the Water Board and plans are being formulated to address it, however it will be a long process. It may be that the valve issue is “low hanging fruit” and could be addressed sooner than later, reducing the number of widespread outages. We are actively working to determine this.
Some Facebook commenters have wondered what would happen if there were a fire in an area experiencing an outage. Keep in mind that these outages result not from the water-main break but from turning off the water at a valve. If there were a fire and hydrants were needed in an affected area, we would simply reenergize the valve and restore service. Although this would cause the broken pipe to start leaking again, this would obviously be acceptable in the face of a need to protect life and property from fire.
Other Facebook commenters wondered why we don’t predict when repairs will be completed when there are outages. The problem is that we just don’t know. For example, especially due to the extremely brittle cast-iron pipes prevalent in South Elkins, sometimes turning the water on after one leak triggers another, which can as much as double repair times. It is just not practical to try to accurately predict repair times.
Another issue: Even if we had the tens of millions of dollars necessary to make all needed improvements in hand right now, there are and will continue to be significant inventory problems, due to both the pandemic supply-chain issues and the fact that every city in the country has ARPA funds to spend on projects like this, including huge cities with much larger projects *and* much larger ARPA disbursements that are able to basically clear the shelves of the same pipes and valves we would need.
Everyone at the city (many of whom live in South Elkins are affected themselves) is frustrated about this situation and deeply regrets the frequent inconvenience. We hope everyone understands that this is a big problem that cannot be fixed overnight but is being worked on.
Follow the below links to learn more about:
Last modified on November 27th, 2021 at 10:16 am
** Update: November 27, 10:15 AM**￼
The boil water notice in South Elkins has been lifted. Laboratory testing found no contamination.
As a result of loss of pressure on a water main caused by a leak, a Boil Water Notice has been issued for water customers in South Elkins in the area bounded by Bond Lane, Ward Avenue, the Tygart River, and Whiteman Avenue. (See map at the bottom of this post.)
Boil Water Notices are issued out of an abundance of caution because positive pressure has been lost and the possibility of contamination exists, not because contamination has been detected. The presence or absence of contamination must be confirmed by an independent lab through a testing process that requires at least 24 hours after delivery of a sample. For more information about what to do under a Boil Water Notice, click here.
Notification will be sent out when the Boil Water Notice is lifted. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused and appreciate your patience during this time.
To keep up to date on these and similar announcements, please follow the following channels:
- Sign up for emergency email and text-message alerts
- Elkins City Hall Facebook page
- Elkins City Hall Twitter account
Water system employees responding to a leak near Ward and Taylor are excavating to find the source of the problem. Depending which line is affected, the repair process may result in low or no water pressure throughout the area of South Elkins shown in the below map.
Update as of 10/15, 9:41 a.m.: The Edgewater boil water advisory has been lifted. Lab tests detected no contamination in our sample. Thank you for your patience.
Update as of 10/14, 8:35 a.m.: Repairs are complete and water service has been restored. However, Edgewater Drive customers remain under a boil water advisory. A water sample is being collected and taken to an independent lab in Clarksburg for testing, a process that requires at least 24 hours to determine whether or not any contamination has occurred. The boil water advisory will therefore remain in place until at least noon on Friday.
Water Outage in Much of South Elkins
There has been a major water-main break in the 200 block of Edgewater Drive.
As a result of this break, water customers living on Edgewater Drive are now under a boil-water advisory that can be expected to last for approximately the next 48 hours.
Work to repair this break will result in a widespread area of low or no water pressure in South Elkins. Water system employees are working to restore service as quickly as possible.
Boil-water advisories are issued out of an abundance of caution because positive pressure has been lost and the possibility of contamination exists, not because contamination has been detected. Detection of contamination requires analysis by an independent lab. For more information about what to do under a boil-water advisory, click here.
Notification will be sent out when the boil water advisory is lifted. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused and appreciate your patience during this time.
To keep up to date on these and similar announcements, please follow the following channels:
On Monday, City of Elkins Water System employees will start a three-phase project to replace a water line under a disused alley near Orchard Street that has been the source of frequent leaks in recent years. The project is currently projected to continue through Friday and is being timed to minimize service interruptions in the area.
“We’ll be replacing a two-inch line that has been problematic for the last several years,” says Wes Lambert, chief operator of the Elkins Water System. “We’ve already had to repair this line multiple times this year alone.”
The source of the trouble has to do with the material the line is made from.
“This line is made from galvanized metal, like a lot of our lines, and unfortunately galvanized line is very prone to corrosion,” says Lambert. “We try to eliminate galvanized lines from our system whenever we get the opportunity.”
The galvanized line will be replaced with a 6-inch line made from C900, an extremely durable, flexible, corrosion-free PVC pipe material designed for potable water systems. Because of their smooth interior wall surfaces, C900 pipes dramatically decrease buildup of the sediments that can cause discoloration at the tap. A similar upgrade from galvanized to C900 is planned soon for a water line on nearby Woodland Drive.
The replacement near Orchard Street will proceed in three phases.
During Phase 1, crews will install a t-fitting and valve on the 8-inch main Orchard Street line.
“We’re starting Phase 1 on Monday at 10 p.m. to minimize impact on businesses and residences,” says Lambert. “Water will be shut off to nearby customers at this time but we’re hoping that won’t affect too many people that late at night.”
Customers should expect to have no or low pressure on Monday night at Third Ward Elementary School and the Randolph Village Apartments, as well as on Orchard Street, Grant Street, Dairy Avenue, Pleasant Avenue, Pine Street, Walnut Street, Nathan Street, Yokum Street, and Westview Drive. Taco Bell and Wendy’s will also be affected.
During Phase 2, scheduled for daytime hours on Tuesday, Lambert’s team will install roughly 500 feet of the new 6-inch C900 line parallel to the old, galvanized line that is marked for replacement. After installation, the new C900 line will be charged with water and chlorinated for a 24-hour period. Then, water samples from the line will be sent to a lab to test for E. coli and other bacteria.
“No one’s water service should be affected during Phase 2 on Tuesday,” says Lambert. “As soon as the water in the new line tests clean, we will be safe to start Phase 3 of the project.”
Phase 3 is scheduled to run during the day on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. During Phase 3, water system employees will connect customers to the new C900 line. Each customer is expected to experience only a brief interruption in water service as this work proceeds.
“Once we get everyone connected to the new line, we’ll kill and abandon the old, galvanized line,” says Lambert. “It’ll be a relief to say goodbye to that one.”
So far in 2021, Elkins Water System employees have responded to about five dozen broken water mains. This is in addition to performing planned work to replace fire hydrants, faulty valves, and related maintenance and upgrades essential to keeping drinking water flowing to our faucets and reducing system losses due to leaky pipes.
Most of this year’s broken mains have been concentrated in South Elkins. These breaks are related to the ongoing project to reduce sewage overflows to the river by separating our current combined sewer/storm-water lines into distinct sewer and storm-water lines. (Learn more about the sewer/storm-water separation project here.) A combination of very soft soils and very old pipes are the main culprits that our contractor and the South Elkins water customers have been struggling with.
After-hours water-main breaks can result in as many as 6-8 hours of overtime per person per break. But what does that really look like?
This photo is from just one day in September when—after a normal workday—overtime work started at 4 p.m. to help Bear Contracting move a water line for the sewer/stormwater project.
While that work was proceeding, a leak was reported on Bruce Street. Elkins Street Department heavy equipment operators joined this repair effort, but even with that extra assistance, work on Bruce Street lasted until midnight.
But the night still wasn’t over. Instead of punching out and heading home for some already well-deserved rest, Water System and Street Department personnel shifted to yet another leak that had cropped up in the meantime, this one over on Yokum Street. Fortunately, the Yokum break was a small one. It “only” took city employees until 2 a.m. to resolve.
At City of Elkins, we are grateful for this kind of teamwork and for the hard work and dedication of these vital public servants. We hope you are, too.
Pictured: Wes Lambert, Gary Bonnell, Eric “Tiny” Hiner, Remington Stanley (Street Dept.), and—in the trench with shovels—D.J. Shoulder and R.D. Walters. Assisting but not pictured: G.B. Bonnell and Shawn Akers (Street Dept.).
Water system employees responding to broken service lines have closed valves in South Elkins until repairs can be completed. Customers throughout the circled area in the below map may have low or no pressure. Repairs may take as long as 6 hours.
Updated Monday, 8/30
Elkins, W. Va., August 27, 2021: Elkins crews have completed flushing water lines in Fourth Ward and Fifth Ward. There will be no flushing Friday night. Work will continue Monday 5 p.m.-5 a.m., when crews will start flushing lines
south of Eleventh Street, including all of First Ward in Third and Second Wards. [Update: the change is because of water-line relocation work scheduled for South Elkins Monday at 4.]
“We’re making good time so far,” says Wes Lambert, the chief operator of the city’s water system. “The Street Department was good enough to detail four men to assist, so that has really helped us move quickly.”
After flushing is complete in a given section of the city, the Elkins Fire Department performs flow testing on each hydrant to verify that they are operating according to specifications. Although flow testing only requires hydrants to be open for a few minutes, it takes longer than flushing because each hydrant must be tested. Flushing does not require opening every hydrant, because many sit near each other on the same line.
Even though the overall goal of the flushing is to reduce sediment in water lines, customers in or near a section of the city that is being flushed may temporarily experience heightened discoloration in their water. This does not indicate that the water is unsafe to drink, cook with, or bathe in, but it would be advisable to avoid doing laundry until any remaining sediment has settled once again.
Customers experiencing cloudy or discolored water can try leaving taps open in a bathtub or sink for 20 minutes. It is important not to run hot water, however, as that would fill the building’s water heater with water that contains sediments.
Each week, the city will use its social media channels, email alert list, and website to announce which sections of the city will be flushed. The information will also be supplied to the media.
To keep up with City of Elkins news and announcements about this and other topics, bookmark our website (www.cityofelkinswv.com), sign up for email alerts (www.cityofelkinswv.com/newsletter-signup), and follow us via Facebook (www.facebook.com/elkinscityhall) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/elkinscityhall). The Water Line Flushing Map is here: www.bit.ly/Elkins-Flushing-Map.