Western Springs officials say reasons vary for water main breaks
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:31AM
WESTERN SPRINGS — Residents may have noticed an unusually high number of water main breaks in the past couple of months. If so, they would be correct.
Western Springs’ Acting Municipal Services Director Matt Supert said the village averages anywhere between one and four water main breaks a month. Since the beginning of April, however, the average has risen to about two or three water main breaks a week.
“We haven’t been able to pin (the cause) to a specific item. There’s been a couple that have been attributed to our (new reverse osmosis water treatment) construction,” Supert said.
Western Springs, which does not get its water from Lake Michigan, has been building a reverse osmosis water treatment plant since the fall of 2011. Meantime, the village is relying on wells not typically used. This, Supert said, could be the cause of some water main breaks.
“It’s really just because we’re using pipes that we normally haven’t used to that capacity,” Supert said.
That said, most of the water main breaks could also be a result of the mild winter that just passed. Supert believes the dry winter, combined with recent high heat have caused the water main breaks to increase.
With each water main break the village posts a message on its Facebook.com page. A water main break occurred at the intersection of 51st Street and Wolf Road, June 26.
Responding to water main breaks can take longer than one might think.
Once the site of the water main break is located village officials test the water for chlorine. The presence of chlorine is sign the water is coming from the water treatment plant and thus, from a water main break.
Then there is the state law that requires anyone digging for non-emergency reasons to call a statewide telephone number alerting all utilities of the digging. This gives the utility companies a chance to make sure no electric wires or gas lines could be in the way of an excavation.
Supert said the law can add about an hour to the village’s water main break response time.
If fixing the water main break requires shutting down some residents’ water, residents could see cloudy water.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time that’s just sediment that’s been stirred up in the pipe,” Supert said.
When this happens, residents merely need to run their water for about 10 minutes, he said.
Supert said it is too soon to determine exactly how much the water main breaks have been costing the village. At the end of the year, however, the village will be able to compare the amount of water that left its treatment plant with the amount for which residents were billed. By comparing the difference, the village can determine how much water was lost by way of breaks.
And as for labor costs, Supert believes the same mild winter responsible for the water main breaks is helping to keep his overtime budget in check. A mild winter meant less of a need for multiple snow plowing shifts.
“We’ve had some overtime but most of the main breaks have occurred during the day,” Supert said.