Water Leak ‘Crisis’ Stymies Staff at Lake City Public Works Department

A massive water leak discovered earlier this month has stymied Town of Lake City’s Public Works personnel , who have been working tirelessly to find and repair it. According to Public Works Director Greg Levine, the leak was discovered December 2.
“We knew we had a leak, because our well- pumping numbers were suddenly excessive, far beyond what they should be,” he said. “When we came in to work the morning of Dec 2 we saw that we had pumped way too much water overnight.” Crews worked over the weekend of December 3 and 4 to no avail. It wasn’t until Monday, December 5 at about 5 p.m. that Levine received a phone call from local resident Rob Hudgeons who reported that there was a mainline break near his house on Third Street with water geysering out of the ground into the street.
“We worked for about three hours just to get the leak stopped, working under the impression that this was it – that we had found the giant leak that was causing the trouble. Around 7p.m. or 8 p.m., everyone’s water in the neighborhood was shut off, including the Courthouse, the Firehouse and multiple residences. I made the call to open all the valves back up and let it leak, then fix it in the morning. It was getting too late to really do anything, it was cold, it was dark, and it was too late at night for people to not have water. So Brian (Mattheus, Public Works employee) got all the water on and we went home for the night.”
At 10 p.m. that night, Levine’s cell phone received a warning phone call from the well monitor saying that the tank was dangerously low and losing significantly more water than a leak the size of the Third Street leak should be losing. “So,” Levine said, “we had to shut down everyone’s water again and leave it off for the night. We had no choice. The wells just could not keep up. I put out door hangers and posted the shut off on social media. We should have been good until the next day, but my phone got another call around 2 am from the tank warning me of extremely low tank levels. It’s clear at this point that water is still gushing out of somewhere and it’s not the leak on Third Street. I shut down a few other suspect valves to slow the problem down overnight. The situation was exponentially worse than we had originally thought. We had the leak on Third plus another massive leak somewhere else and we had no idea where. This all happened completely randomly, a total coincidence.”
Tuesday, December 6, public works crews focused on the known Third Street leak and repaired it. Outside help was enlisted from American Leak Detection out of Eckert, Colorado, along with the efforts of town staff as well as Ron Alexander and Jodi Linsey of the Town’s engineering firm, Consolidated Consulting Services. The town was divided into quadrants in an attempt to at least narrow down where the leak could be.
“The team executed the plan by breaking the town into four big chunks and conducted pressure tests,” Levine said. “North of the Post Office, the Ball Flats, downtown, and everything south of the Henson Creek Bridge, working from the north end of town to the south. We discovered that the leak had to be somewhere south of Henson Creek. Brian and I honed in on it – eliminating everything south of Vine Street in Wade’s Addition.”
A significant leak was found in a two-inch waterline in Wade’s Addition that was less than a block long. This leak was on the west side of Gunnison Avenue at Cleborn Street. “No one is living on Cleborn from Gunnison to where the road dead ends,” Levine said. The water in that area was shut off at 4 p.m. December 12. “Shutting down this section was no big deal, as no residences are being serviced. We easily saved over 100,000 gallons of water in a 24 hour period just by shutting down that line. The big leak is losing anywhere from 200-500 gallons per minute.”
Linsey and Alexander worked with a listening device to pinpoint the leak, and they were “fairly confident” they had identified the location. Rundle Construction crews dug in the area and Levine felt confident they would discover broken plastic and a pool of water, but nothing was amiss. The waterline was re-opened, with Levine hoping they would be able to see gushing water somewhere, but they were still unable to see the leak. “At this point, we know it is in Wade’s Addition. We have to scratch through the snow and ice to get to dirt along Cleborn,” Levine said.
He intends to continue using the listening device as well as walking the entirely of the line until the leak is discovered. “We have at least two leaks to fix in Wade’s Addition, that much we know for sure. We have to keep looking and hope it will surface. For now, the well is keeping up and the aquifer will, of course, replenish itself. We have been feeding off our aquifer for 30 years. We have a very large water source that gets re-charged from Henson Creek. Suffice to say, it has been a very busy month for us.”
Additionally, Rundle crews are installing a 500 ft. line of 12 inch pipe at Bluff and First Streets. This line is critical, according to Levine, as it provides adequate chlorine contact for the Town of Lake City’s water. Rundle is expected to finish work next week to clean up loose ends after the installation of the chlorine contact chamber. Once that is complete, crews will cease working until Spring.