Strasburg loses water to leaks

Leaky pipes mean Strasburg can’t bill for all the drinking water it produces.

But a town official says Strasburg can take some measures in the future that might help plug the gap and make up for potential lost revenue.

Acting Town Manager and Director of Public Works Jay McKinley presented information to Town Council earlier this month showing how much water Strasburg produces. At times, the amount well exceeds what it bills for, data showed.

Leaky water pipes cost the town in the long run because Strasburg can only bill customers for the water they use as determined by meters.

The town produced 22.336 million gallons of drinking water in October but only billed for 13.254 million gallons — a difference of about 41 percent, according to the data. McKinley pinned the cause of the discrepancy with the water distribution lines.

“We know we have a lot of leaks in the system and we’re working on fixing them,” McKinley told council.

In order to solve the problem of the leaking lines, the town needs to find the leaks. McKinley said he has made this one of his goals.

“We’re finding that there’s newer and better technology out there,” McKinley said. “Right now, we literally only have two metal pucks with a couple of hoses that we stick in our ears and listen to the ground.”

The department has tested and plans to purchase newer devices designed to more accurately pinpoint leaks, McKinley said.

“Unless it surfaces and then we follow it back to where it’s leaking underground, we don’t even know it’s there,” McKinley said.

The department also looked into hiring a company that could examine the town’s water distribution lines but that would cost approximately $500,000, McKinley said. Instead, with the money and resources available, the town department must do the work itself.

The town can lose water to users connected that do not have meters, McKinley said. When he was developing the data, McKinley discovered a non-metered connection at the town’s wastewater treatment plant. The department will be putting workers out in the field to make sure each property connected to water has a meter, he added. Also, meters become less accurate with age. A 10-year old meter can read 10-15 percent lower than the actual amount of water distributed, he said. The department replaces meters as they age, McKinley said.

The data shows that the town has billed for less water than it produced at least since October 2011. Water production reached a peak of about 25 million gallons in July 2012, at which time Strasburg billed for 16 million gallons.

McKinley also reported on the difference between how much wastewater the town treats and the amount it bills for. Strasburg saw a sharp spike in the amount of wastewater treated beginning in late 2013. The town treated more than 40 million gallons in December, up from about 21 million gallons the month prior. However, the town billed for 12 million gallons treated in December 2013. The plant treated 40 million gallons again in February and June 2014. The number dipped to almost 16 million gallons in September.

Water that enters the sewer system through leaks and other sources, referred to as inflow and infiltration, increases the amount the town plant must treat and the costs associated with the process.

McKinley said the town will try to use newer, more advanced technology to find ways to keep water from entering the sewer lines. The department would like to purchase a camera system that allows workers to look into the lines to find cracks and leaks, McKinley said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com