Local leaks reveal sodden surprises

Gladewater Public Works crew members Seth Filkins (right) and Billy Williams stand in a three-foot hole next to a broken two-inch line at Saunders and Anderson Lane July 1. Repairs would have been easier, Gladewater City Manager Charlie Smith said, had personnel known the location of the valve buried next to the pipe. (Above) Water erupts from a line break at Saunders and Anderson Lane July 1 following a rupture in a two-inch line. (Courtesy photos)

Another day, another leak repaired, another Gladewater valve unearthed.
Gladewater Public Works personnel started July with a splash after a break in a two-inch line near Weldon Elementary School sent a geyser of water 40-feet in the air Monday.
Granted, it wasn’t an instant Old Faithful – the ruptured pipe at Saunders and Anderson Lane was buried three feet down alongside, it so happens, one more long-lost valve .
“That’s what we run into every single day,” lamented interim Gladewater City Manager Charlie Smith. “These valves are supposed to be exposed so we can isolate these lines; they’ve been covered up for whatever reason.”
With about two years under his belt in Gladewater’s executive seat, Smith counts dozens of newly-discovered valves that ostensibly shouldn’t exist. There’s no accurate inventory of which lines have valves and where they’re located, complicating maintenance.
“When I first came to work over here, I was told there were no valves on these lines,” and, consequently, no good way of closing off sections of the water system when repairs were necessary. However, “They did put valves on these lines, and now we’re finding them and exposing them,” Smith said. “It makes me upset, furious sometimes, because this should never have been covered up. Ever. People just didn’t care.”
Had the location of the July 1 valve been on record – even if it was buried three feet down – it could have saved the city several thousand gallons of treated water.
Hindsight’s 20/20, of course: “Back in the day when the city privatized the public works, I think we suffered big time because of that. You can put that in the opinion column,” he quipped. That said. “We keep trudging along, and we’re making progress.
“I’d bet in the last two years we’ve found 60 valves, at the minimum, that supposedly didn’t exist. That’s not an exaggeration. I’m probably undershooting that a little bit.”
As for the Saunders leak, public works employees worked it hot: digging the spot out, clamping the line, moving the clamp over the leak and securing it. Once the nearby buried valve was discovered, they killed the water to the line and progressed with digging out the stretch for replacement.
“That thing, it was bad,” Smith said.
At the very least, though, the new valve’s installed – in easy reach – and the location’s on record.

– By James Draper

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