Answers sought for water line leaks
Water line leaks in the Baker Wetlands are becoming a familiar occurrence for Baldwin City.
Last week's water leak in the 12-inch-in-diameter ductile iron line was the second leak in less than two months, and the third leak in about three years in the Baker Wetlands.
But that also means the city is getting faster at repairing the leaks. The leak that was discovered Nov. 19 was repaired in about a day, compared to the two days it took to repair the leak in October.
"It was a much quicker job," City Administrator Larry Paine said. "It was a much smaller hole."
Part of reason the leak was repaired quicker is attributed to the city tracking the water consumption closely since the last leak, Paine said.
"The meter was read Friday and read again on Monday," he said. "What we noticed after reading the meter on Monday that it was unusual."
Paine said water had been leaking out of a hole the size of a silver dollar for about three days before the leak was noticed. The leak, just 25 feet away from October's leak near the intersection of 31st and Haskell streets, was caused by the corroding of the pipe, which is buried under a few feet of water. About four million gallons of water leaked out, he said.
City crews, along with the help of Douglas County and the city of Lawrence, were able to locate and repair the leak in a short amount of time, Paine said.
"It's just one of those things where local government worked together," he said.
But the recent leaks, and the possibility that another leak could happen at anytime as long as the water line is in the wetlands, has some people, including some city council members, worried about how Baldwin is going to pay for them.
About 75 million gallons of water were lost with the October leak, which cost Baldwin around $156,000 in total repair and water expenses. Approximately four million gallons of water was lost last week and the total cost is not yet known.
At last week's city council meeting, council member Ken Wagner said he didn't see how the city could continue to pay for any more leak repairs.
"If this continues on, it's just going to create a hardship for this town," he said.
The money for the repairs, Paine said, comes from the water utility only.
"The water utility has a reserve," he said. "The funds come from that reserve."
He said the city is continuing to look for answers to its water line problems.
"We want to make it clear the cost is not something we take lightly," Paine said. "We're trying to renegotiate the process to move the water line out of the wetlands.
"This is not one of those issues we can wish to go away," he said. "We will be continuing to look at it."
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