Updated 09/18/2012 06:17 PM
MVWA: Old mains, dry weather responsible for main breaks
Mohawk Valley Water Authority Officials say they saw a slight increase in water main breaks this summer. Our Andrew Sorensen looks into what they think happened and what can be done about it.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- Madeline Voce's daily commute to the Star Bakery in East Utica was anything but normal on August 13th.
"When I got here, I realized that there was a detour, so I had to come up Nichols Street instead of coming up Milgate," she recalled.
The Mohawk Valley Water Authority sent loads of people around the long way as they tore up half of Bacon Street for a particularly bad water main break.
"We couldn't use any coffee or you know, they couldn't do anything until the water there until we got the approval," Voce said.
The water main break was over a block away near Broad Street, but it shut off the service to several city blocks. Unfortunately, it's an all too common scene in a city with an aging water system.
"We average about 10 a month. They come about two to three times a week," Mohawk Valley Water Authority Executive Director Patrick Bechar said.
Bechar says age is only part of the problem.
"A little less than a third of our water mains are over 100 years old, a little more than a third are between 75 and 100 years old and then the remainder are less than 75 years old," he explained.
Bechar said this summer was worse than previous summers with nearly twice as many breaks. He also said many areas in the Northeast had similar problems because of dry weather.
"The more the soil dries out and there's less moisture content, it starts to shrink up a little bit and shift and we think that may have been a contributing factor," he said.
They're on a long term plan to replace and update as much of the system as they can every year, but for the last several years, they had to divert $30 million toward five mandated new water tanks. And they can't replace the whole system at once because of the staggering cost.
"We could easily spend $100 million and barely take care of ten or fifteen percent of the water mains that are out there," Bechar said.
They say new technologies enable them to control breaks more efficiently and keep prices down, but without new major sources of funding, a new water system is just a pipe dream.