Aging water system creates ongoing problems

Acidic soil, flux in temperatures and old age cause water line breaks

Richmond public works employees dug up this old iron clamp from its location on the water line below the parking lot of Fowler’s Surplus Sales Unlimited. City Administrator Ron Brohammer estimated that the clamp had been in the ground for about 40 years before public works replaced it Jan. 3. (Photo by Leah Wankum/Richmond News)

By Leah Wankum, Editor

The downtown district and Victorian-style homes are visible signs that Richmond is a relatively old town. Much less noticeably, the plumbing beneath the city is pretty old too, and when pipes age, they leak.

That would explain why the city’s public works employees have fixed more than 100 leaks in the city’s water system in the past four years, doing the work themselves or hiring someone else to do it.

Leaks occur for a variety of reasons. Natural wear and tear from age is one factor, but City Administrator Ron Brohammer and Public Works Superintendent Dale Shipp said acidic soil, such as the soil near abandoned coal mines, will eventually corrode cast iron and steel pipes. Yet seasonal fluctuation in temperature, such as Missouri’s typical 60-degree weather that turns frigid cold overnight – or, sometimes, even in the same day – plays into the equation as well.

“I think it’s been more prevalent now because it hasn’t gotten cold and stayed cold,” Shipp said. “We get that constant thaw and refreeze, thaw and refreeze, and I think that’s got a lot to do with it.”

When water in the ground turns to ice, it causes the ground to expand. Conversely, when the ground thaws, it contracts. This fluctuation in ground temperature puts excessive pressure on the pipelines, causing them to crack or break.

The complete story is in the Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 Richmond News.

Click here for our E-edition and read the rest of the story.

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