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HCSA director addresses Halifax water problems

Halifax County Service Authority (HCSA) Executive Director Willie Jones reviewed water quality issues in certain parts of the Town of Halifax during town council’s work session Wednesday night at Halifax Town Hall.

Town residents in the area of Maple Avenue, Buena Vista Drive and Lakeside Drive have experienced problems with odorous and discolored water for some time.

Jones heard complaints about the water quality at council’s August meeting, and the HCSA has taken steps to help alleviate the problem.

The HCSA chief said current practices are having a limited effect. He said the system is flushed three times weekly, but the better quality water lasts only about two days at best.

“We’re not making a whole lot of progress with it,” said Jones. “We still have some dingy water, and some others are having red water problems.”

Jones illustrated to council members and interested citizens who were in attendance what HCSA staff have found and what they understand about the problem.

He said the water flows in a different direction than what most people believe. “When the water system plant was operating, all the water was being forced out in two directions,” Jones explained. “What we found out is there is a gap in the line, and the Mountain Road line ends at Maple Avenue.”

Jones said the water seems to be flowing out of both ways and stopping. “It’s getting stagnant, and that exacerbates the problem,” he said. “The flushing helps a little bit, but one of the problems we found out, if we really want to get a thorough cleaning, we’ve got to shut off one section and flow it in one direction or the other.”

Jones said there is not enough volume in the waterline without drastically affecting system pressure upstream on the high points. “So we can only get a limited amount of flushing,” he said. “We are flushing here and are flushing down at the plant three times a week, and that’s turning it over some, but it’s not giving us as much turnover as we would like to see.

“So we cannot flush the line as hard as we would like to flush it. It’s just a function of the way the system was set up,” he continued. “Even if we had the pumps on at the plant, you really wouldn’t get a hard scouring velocity, or about two feet per second.”

Jones said they would need between 300 and 400 gallons a minute in the lines to pick up all the sediment and carry it out. Over 350 or 400 gallons a minute drops the pressure beyond the 20 psi minimum requirement of the health department. He explained the flushing activities now put approximately 200 gallons per minute through the system.

Jones called the affected area a “dead end zone,” saying the water doesn’t circulate as much as it needs to. He said they have been working with their engineers to route the flow, not limit fire protection and get better circulation.

Jones explained that when water sits in the old cast iron pipes for a long time, it picks up the iron. He said they are exploring several options, including adding automated flushing valves in low spots to step up the frequency of flushing.

A second option is to add a recirculation pump at the water plant to move water through the lines.

The third option is to examine other chemicals to sequester iron, and the fourth option is to replace the waterlines.

Jones said they need to get the water moving and replace the systems. “Over the next few weeks we’re going to continue the flushing program and review more information on this with the (HCSA) board of directors,” he said. “We’re looking at adding some automated recirculation, something that would come on during the middle of the night and move a lot of the water.

“We estimate that we need to move approximately 20,000 to 25,000 gallons of water through the pipes to really improve what’s in the affected area,” he continued. “We also need to look at funding for line replacement. To replace the lines on Maple, Buena Vista and Lakeshore, the engineers’ estimate on that is about $445,000.”

Jones said that was a preliminary estimate, and a more formal estimate and preliminary engineering plan are needed to go before the health department.

“We have to have that before we go out for any funding applications,” he explained. “That’s going to be a long-term project for us, but some of these other things we will need to do in the interim.”

Jones said he would discuss these issues with the HCSA board at its meeting Dec. 16.