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City chasing elusive leaking waterline
Work around St. Rose Pavilion may cause water disruptions
st. rose water leak
Pictured is the area at the University of Kansas Health System St. Rose Pavilion on Broadway where waterline repairs are being made. But, crews are having problems shutting off water to the site. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

In September, the Great Bend City Council approved awarding the University of Kansas Health System St. Rose Pavilion waterline replacement project to APAC of Hutchinson for $51,982. However, that project remains unfinished, City Administrator Kendal Francis said Monday night.

“APAC is still working on the waterline over by St. Rose,” he told the City Council. “For anyone in that area, they might have experienced some water interruptions over the course of the last week as we’re trying to isolate that line.”

The existing leaking line is underneath an access tunnel that runs along Broadway. The plan is to relocate and put the new line above the tunnel.

However, they can’t get the water flow shut off to the site, he said. And a phantom waterline may be the culprit.

“We’ve gradually extended out from that area to try to shut down the water system,” he said. “But, unfortunately, it has not been unsuccessful, so we may continue to see some interruptions in that area until we figure out how to get the water shut off.”

They are working their way outward, shutting off valves to find the source of the problem, he said.

“Are they knocking on doors, letting people know they are shutting the water off?” asked Councilwoman Jolene Biggs.

“In this situation, we have not been knocking on doors,” Francis said. They don’t expect these to be long interruptions.

“Until we can shut down that waterline, we’ve just been doing it in small chunks at a time,” he said. “But, once we finally get it isolated, we will have to plan accordingly. We expect the repairs to take the majority of the day so people would be experiencing significant disruption.”

They are concerned they are creeping into the area of Great Bend Middle School and other large facilities which may be negatively impacted by long-term water shut-offs, he said. “We are looking at what options we can do.”

Unknown waterline

“There may be some broken valves, but now we are beginning to think that there may be a line tapped into there somewhere that we just don’t have a record of,” he said. “We’ve gone out in a circle area for several blocks and not had any success, so we tend to think that there is a line that isn’t on our maps.”

As of Monday afternoon, still no isolation.

The city has what amounts to an atlas of the water system, he said. “But, we are beginning to wonder just how complete those maps are.”

“We are looking at some other options instead of putting in another insta-valve (a replacement valve that will allow crews to just close of water flow),” he said. “They are just so expensive.”

They are looking at some cheaper alternatives to isolate the leak and allow the repairs to be made around that tunnel, he said. 

If it turns out that a ghost line is not responsible, then there may be several broken valves causing the trouble, Francis said. “It just seems to be an ongoing problem every time we want to make a repair.”

Much success

Crews have been very diligent in making repairs; as of last week, they had repaired over 130, including some fire hydrants. “We’ve really made great headway in catching up. Kudos to the water crews, they’ve really done a good job.”

Seven remained as of Monday. “As we get them fixed, more pop up,” he said. 

Water leak repairs have been completed in the Meadowlark Street area, he said. “All that is left is cleanup.”

The series of leaks in this area drew considerable social media attention, as well as ire from residents along the street. They said water had oozed out of the lines and flooded gutters and front lawns since last fall.

The contract was awarded to APAC for $81,401. At issue were five broken valves that are stuck in the open position and four which have sprung leaks.

Towards the end of 2018 there were about 60 water leaks city-wide. But, as some were fixed, other leaks erupted.