By Annabelle Knef
O’FALLON – Mayor Herb Roach said the City of O’Fallon has run into problems with water line breaks due to a number of issues that haven’t been addressed in the last few decades – until now.
Roach said that the Public Works department director, Jeff Taylor, has pointed out that aging lines and inaccurate mapping are big challenges.
“I had been out probably four or five times with them and watched what was going on, and there are a couple of things,” Roach said. “Our drawings are not as accurate as we would like them to be, so they aren’t accurately showing where all of the shut- off valves are supposed to be.”
Roach said that once workers do locate shut- off valves, a lot of times they are under one or two coats of asphalt that have to be dug through.
“They have to dig down under a couple sheets of asphalt,” he said.
Another problem that the city runs into, according to Roach, is that some shut-off valves haven’t been opened or closed for up to 25 to 30 years.
“They are rusted or corroded and when they go to shut them off, they bust off,” he said. “So, they have not only one break, they have a second one where (workers) have to come in and do another fix.”
Roach said while all of this is taking place, there is a crew of six men standing around and waiting for the water to be shut off before they can do anything.
O’Fallon Director of Public Works Jeff Taylor said that the city hired two additional Water Department maintenance workers.
“These positions were proposed in the 2019 Fiscal Year Budget that was approved by City Council,” Taylor said.
“The two additional personnel will assist in the implementation of a valve and fire hydrant exercising program,” he said.
“Their role is to go out and make sure where these shut-off valves are located and make sure that they work properly,” Roach said.
Roach said that if the valves need to be replaced, the city will replace them, “and not just when there is an emergency.”
Roach said that it would be preferable for the team to be replacing valves in 70 or 80 degree weather as opposed to “frigid” temperatures come winter time.
A very important aspect in the project is for the city to do checks on all of its fire hydrants to ensure they are properly functioning, Roach said.
“Fire hydrants and valves within the water distribution system should be tested annually to ensure that they will operate properly when needed,” Taylor said. “In addition, flow rate and pressure should be measured at each hydrant to be sure adequate fire flow is available.”
Roach said that the city did a recent study on O’Fallon water lines, which showed that it was necessary for some of the older lines to be replaced.
“Some of the water lines- people have known for 10 years or more that they were bad,” Roach said. “We had drawings that showed some of the lines needed to be replaced but they were never replaced.”
“As we add water lines, those have to be put on the charting to make sure they are maintained properly.”
Roach said that one older line, which a drawing showed it should have been replaced 10 years ago, had three breaks recently.
Two of them, he said, occurred in “the dead of winter when it makes it very nasty to get in there.”
One break, which occurred on Highway 50, caused the City of O’Fallon to issue a boil order.
“If we have lines that we know are bad, let’s get in there and let’s get them corrected before we wait for a problem to occur,” Roach said.
Roach said that there are sewer lines in O’Fallon that are 60-plus years old that will start to be replaced.
“Southview Plaza is an area we are addressing. A lot of stormwater drainage and a lot of new sewer lines being replaced (there),” he said.
“Its always nice to put new stuff in, but you have got to maintain your old lines,” Roach said. “You have got to make sure that they are okay.”
Taylor said that the two new employees are scheduled to start by the end of July.
“It is estimated to take a minimum of one year to exercise every valve and fire hydrant within out water distribution system,” he said.