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Weather extremes set new record for water main leaks in the City

The combination of weather extremes over the past year and an aging system of underground water pipes has led to record pace for water main breaks for the City of Kansas City, Mo. Water Service Department. More than 1,400 such breaks occurred in the first 10 months of 2011. The month of October was the highest month this year with 236 breaks and third highest on record. To combat this record pace, the City’s Water Service Department has increased the use of private contractors at a cost of about $5.5 million.

“The number of breaks for 2011 has already exceeded the previous record and is a direct result of the extreme cold, heat and drought conditions placed on our aging system this past year,” said Acting Water Services Director Terry Leeds. “City and contract crews are working diligently to reduce the backlog of main breaks before cold weather creates additional problems.”

In addition to leaks from water mains, the water system is experiencing more than 100 leaking valves. With an increase in main and valve leaks, the time required for the restoration of streets and yards has also increased. The patience exhibited by residents during this situation is greatly appreciated.

To minimize water outages and maximize public safety, the critical leaks are repaired first. Consequently, the backlog of moderate leaks has increased from 40 in May to 125 in October.

The Water Services Department is also addressing the longer-term issue of infrastructure investment and is spending about $70 million on replacing small water mains, which are located in older neighborhoods throughout the city. Andy Shively, manager of systems engineering, anticipates completing replacement of 120 miles of small mains by the end of 2012 with about 95 miles replaced by the end of this year, and the rest scheduled to be finished by the end of 2012.

The Kansas City, Mo., Water Services Department maintains and operates water collection, processing and distribution systems, stormwater management and control systems, and waste water collection and processing systems for residential and business customers in Kansas City and for wholesale customers in the Kansas City region. Operation is funded by fees charged to customers based on their use of products and services.

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