Water Woes on Willow Way Reach Fifth Month
Officials having trouble reaching stable pH needed to advance remediation
While several remedies apparently exist to solve the problem plaguing an entire neighborhood on the north end of town ever since the borough's new multi-million-dollar water treatment plant came on-line, any action taken too soon could only further disrupt the system, officials said.
Borough Engineer Charlie Rooney on Monday said that tuberculant, or iron build-up, inside the pipes likely was the culprit causing rust-colored and odorous water flowing from the taps of Willow Way and other surrounding residents.
However, since officials have not yet been able to produce a consistent pH of water flowing through the pipes, allowing the tuberculant to crust over and stop dispersing into the water supply, any long-term remedies to either replace the affected pipes or "pig" them would have to wait, officials said.
"Until we have a stable pH, no matter what we do there, we take a chance of disrupting it because the crust is not thick enough or strong enough to contain the softer tuberculant that's inside the pipe," Council President Ed Donovan said.
Borough officials have received recommendations from an outside water chemist that a stable pH of between 7.6 and 7.8 would need to be maintained for at least four weeks, otherwise any more tinkering with the system would likely result in starting the problem all over again.
The problem, however, is that the borough has not had even one week of consistent pH, officials said.
"We haven't had seven days of consistent pH," said Joe DeIorio, the borough's administrator and chief financial officer.
DeIorio said that the best officials have seen was a five-day period just after Labor Day when pH levels maintained in the desired range.
But once the pH is stabilized, officials do have a few options with how to proceed.
Rooney said he would like to run hydrant flushing tests on Willow Way to measure their flow, which would indicate whether or not there indeed was a build-up of tuberculant.
Rooney said that crews running the borough's last routine round of flushing during the summer noticed diminished flow from the Willow Way area hydrants.
"That was a visual observation," Rooney said. "We just want to verify that."
The next step would be to "coupon," or cut out 12-inch sections of the pipes, and analyze the condition of the lines and the extent of build-up, Rooney said.
If officials believed the pipes would hold up for several more years, cleaning out the tuberculant through pigging -- less expensive than replacing the pipes -- likely would be the best route to go, Rooney said.
"So the thought was: check the flow, then take coupons, make sure the integrity of the pipe is sufficient that it will provide a reasonable period of life of good service, and then advance with pigging past that point."
But pigging isn't necessarily a cheap fix, either, Rooney said.
"And as much as it's not as expensive as replacing the pipes, it's not an inexpensive proposition," Rooney said.
Mayor George Dempsey appeared somewhat exasperated by the now long-running problem affecting a neighborhood of residents.
"We're five months [in], and we've not gotten to the point where we can do anything," Dempsey said.
"Before we switched over to the new system, we didn't have a flow problem, we didn't have an iron problem -- Willow Way was perfect. I don't know, I think we're kind of grabbing straws here," he said.
"Again, why was everything working fine and then it's not today?" Dempsey said.
The governing body abruptly ended its public discussion on the issue before going into closed session to continue the conversation.