01/09/18 — Icy conditions lead to water main breaks

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Icy conditions lead to water main breaks

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 9, 2018 5:50 AM

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A crew from City of Goldsboro Public Works repairs a water main break on North Carolina Street near Franklin Baking Company Monday. Extremely cold temperatures have caused issues throughout the city.

The arctic air that held Wayne County in its bitterly cold grip for nearly a week took a toll on water lines across Goldsboro.

City public works crews have repaired 18 water mains and eight service lines since Jan. 1.

"Just this weekend alone they did six," said Rick Fletcher, public works director. "We had extended hours all weekend."

This past weekend, crews worked near Goldsboro High School on Beech, Holly and Herman streets and at a couple of locations on Elm and George streets and Elm Street and Audubon Avenue.

"Cold weather, especially extremely cold weather, creates problems for water lines, both home and public," City Manager Scott Stevens said. "For sure, we have had our share of water main breaks.

"We have been chasing broken lines to fix and expect that will continue."

Stevens is asking residents who notice a water leak, or anything that appears to be one, to call the city at 919-734-8674.

All of the broken mains have been 6-inch ones, and with the exception of two, they all have been made of cast iron, Fletcher said

"It is the older pipes, the cast iron pipes that we are having problems with, which is typical, I think," he said.

The breaks have been minor to moderate, he said.

Fletcher said he would consider a 16-inch or 12-inch line break "major" ones as far as the impact they would have on the water supply.

Fletcher said he is not sure how much water has been lost thus far because of the breaks.

Some of the mains were cracked all the way around so the water was pouring while the other pipes were just cracked, he said.

Water loss is particularly hard to determine when the line is underground and then blows dirt and water up 20 feet into the air when uncovered, he said.

In most cases, the lines have been repaired under pressure which means that the water did not have to be cut off to homes and businesses, Fletcher said.

Crews typically do not work weekends, but did this past weekend, he said.

"First thing this morning they hit the road," Fletcher said. "They got a couple hours sleep last night. I think we broke about 10 o'clock last night."

Monday morning a crew was working on a 6-inch water main on North William Street near U.S. 70.

The city fixed another section of same main last week in front of Carey A. Winders Detention Center.

Crews worked all day Saturday, all night Saturday and Sunday until 10 p.m.

"We were trying to keep up," Fletcher said. "If we have just one or two, it's not too bad, and sometimes we can let it ride to the next business day.

"But with this many all at one time we didn't want to have any issues with water pressure and things like that. So we tried to get out and fix them as soon as we can."

Fletcher has been with city since 2013. He said he had not previously seen so many breaks in such a short period.

"Talking with the guys (in the department), we have not had this extensive number of breaks at one particular time," he said. "Of course, we just set a record, too.

Fletcher was referring to the National Weather Service recording 201 hours of freezing or below-freezing temperatures at Raleigh-Durham International Airport breaking the old record of 157 hours set in 1982.

"That's what gets us," he said. "We can take a night or two of the single digits, but when you consistently get three, four, five, six, seven, eight nights in a row, and during the day it doesn't get much above freezing is when we start to get these problems."

As ironic as it may sound, the real problems are going to occur once it thaws out. That is because of the expansion and contraction of the soil and pipes, Fletcher said.

"Any time you have movement, any weak spots you are going to crack," he said. "I hope not, but we will probably see more as the temperatures warm up this week."