Leak Investigation near Children’s Home

Update at 6:32 a.m.: The leak has been isolated without affecting other customers. Barring failure of the valve to this line, it should be possible to proceed with repairs without an outage in the area.

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Elkins Water Board employees are responding to a leak in the vicinity of the West Virginia Children’s Home, on Maryland Avenue.

Starting approximately 7 a.m., water customers in the area will experience low or no water pressure. Affected streets may include Pleasant Avenue, Maple Street, Maryland Avenue, Heavner Avenue, and others nearby. The precise outage area will not be known until it can be determined which line the leak is on.

Water Plant Hosts Filtration Training

The Elkins Water Treatment Plant recently hosted a training session on membrane water filtration. The session, which was organized by the West Virginia Rural Water Association (WVRWA), was attended by water treatment operators from several counties as well as engineers from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services. Elkins Chief Water Operator Wes Lambert and the rest of the water operators who staff the city’s plant helped provide hands-on training.

The city’s water treatment plant, which was put into service in 2017 after a $37 million construction project, uses membrane water filtration, as opposed to sand or media filtration. WVRWA convened its training session in Elkins for access to both one of the newest membrane-filtration systems in West Virginia and the knowledge and skills that Lambert and his staff have acquired while operating it.

“Wes and his team have always been open to share information about the membrane filtration technology that the Elkins Water Treatment Plant uses,” said Heather Somers, the WVRWA training specialist who facilitated the training session. “This hands-on training class was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate exactly how that technology works.”

Somers called the training a success and said she looks forward to future opportunities to host training at the Elkins plant.

“West Virginia Rural Water is thankful for the opportunity to facilitate this education opportunity in Elkins,” said Somers. “We’re always looking for ways to train the various professionals dedicated to providing safe drinking water in our state.  We hope to continue collaborative training efforts like this in the future.”

 

 

Illegally Dumped Diesel Fuel Found in Tygart River

Water operators contained a small amount of diesel fuel dumped by an unknown person

On Friday, city, county, and state officials responded to a report of an oily sheen in the Tygart River, near Fifteenth Street.

Elkins Water Board employees determined that the sheen was caused by a small amount of diesel fuel in the river. Water operators immediately took action to contain and neutralize the spill, then investigated for the source of the problem.

No ongoing source of contamination was found, and the facts of the situation are consistent with an unknown person having illegally dumped a limited amount of fuel into a nearby storm drain. The substance in question did not enter the city’s treatment system, and the city’s drinking water was unaffected.

Chief Water Operator Wes Lambert reminds the public that it is illegal to dispose of any substances down storm drains, and additional penalties apply for disposing of petroleum products this way. This is because most of the city’s storm drains empty directly into the river, with no treatment; whatever is poured down one of these drains will go directly into the water.

“The Tygart River is our drinking source water,” says Lambert. “We all must do everything we can to protect that water. That means not dumping anything at all down storm drains, and especially not hazardous waste like petroleum products. Dumping into the stormwater system or the river directly can also harm wildlife and cause problems with drains.”

According to the Randolph County Solid Waste Authority, petroleum products may be disposed of at either Advance Auto Parts or Auto Zone. Other auto-supply stores and service stations may also accept petroleum products for disposal.

Lambert urges the public to report any illegal dumping, signs of contamination (e.g., an oily sheen), or suspicious activity in and around city infrastructure facilities.

“If you see anything that concerns you about our water supply, the best thing to do is call 911,” says Lambert. “When it comes to our drinking water, I would rather be safe than sorry, and calling 911 is the best way to ensure the fastest possible response.”

APPLICATION PERIOD EXTENDED: Water Board Vacancy

Last modified on April 28th, 2022 at 03:38 pm

Council will soon fill a vacancy on the Elkins Water Board. City residents who wish to be considered for appointment to this important volunteer position are encouraged to submit an application to the city clerk no later than April 29. Update: The application period has been extended to Friday, May 13.

What the Board Does

The Elkins Water Board is responsible for the the management, control, and operation of the Elkins Public Waterworks System. The water board collaborates with city council in establishing rates and planning and securing funds for capital projects. Council is ultimately responsible for setting rates, issuing bonds, and similar matters.

Membership

There are five seats on the board, one of which must be filled by the mayor (or the mayor’s designee). At least three members must be Elkins residents, and all must be West Virginia residents. Water board members are appointed by the Elkins council to four-year terms; membership is unpaid.

As the current vacancy arose from a resignation, the successful applicant will be appointed for an unexpired term ending March 31, 2023. Again, this applicant must be a city resident.

Meeting Times

The regular meetings of the Elkins Water Board are on fourth Tuesdays at 4 p.m. in the council chamber at Elkins City Hall. The board may also hold special meetings with two days’ notice when needed.

More Information

Visit the Elkins Water Board homepage for more information.

To Apply

Apply by downloading and completing this PDF application form. The form may be submitted to the city clerk’s office by email, mail, or hand delivery. Please ensure your application arrives no later than April 29. Update: The application period has been extended to Friday, May 13.

New Equipment to Maintain Water Valves

To repair a broken water main, it’s often necessary to turn off the water going to that pipe. But what if the valve is stuck or broken? One reason that some water outages are so widespread is because we have fewer working valves than ideal, so we aren’t always able to isolate small areas.
To better maintain and protect our current water valves the Elkins Water Board recently took delivery of the valve maintenance trailer shown in these pictures. This trailer’s central feature is a valve exerciser, a device that repeatedly turns a valve on and off to prevent the valve from becoming so stiff that it cannot function properly.
The valve exerciser does this by cycling through different levels of torque to break stuck valves open. This one starts out at a rate of 150 ft/lb. and can go all the way up to 750 ft/lbs. As the exerciser operates the valve, it counts the turns and measures the torque to avoid breaking the valve. It also has a vacuum system to clean dirt and debris out of valves. Finally, the trailer also has a GPS system to store valve locations and add notes for future reference.
Elkins council authorized use of $88,000 of ARPA funds to purchase the trailer.
Not cheap–but consider that the Elkins water system has about 500 valves with a replacement cost of $12-15,000 each. This exerciser will pay for itself if it keeps us from needing to replace even a half dozen.

Elkins Launches Water Problem Reporter

The City of Elkins has launched an online tool that people can use to report problems related to the city’s water system. The COE Water Problem Reporter may be accessed on computers, tablet, and smartphones.

The main purpose of the COE Water Problem Reporter is to make it easier for people to report water problems, but it will also help Elkins Water Board employees track and analyze possible causes of reported problems.

“The idea for this app came out of conversations we were having about how to tackle some of the trickier issues we sometimes face with the water system, like odors, tastes, or discoloration,” says Wes Lambert, the chief operator of the Elkins water system. “These aren’t very common but they are obviously extremely frustrating to the customers experiencing them, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to get to the bottom of these. One thing we’re really excited about is the ability to view problem reports on a map, because we think that could really help us get to the root causes.”

The online app provides both a map interface and text-entry fields. Once a report is submitted, email notifications are automatically sent to both water board and city personnel. As each issue is investigated and resolved, its status can be updated in the app.

“Someone who wants to submit a report can either type in the address or drop a point on the map,” says Ben Martin, the city’s GIS technician and the person who built the app using ArcGIS software. “Anyone can then use the map to see what’s been reported and what the status of each report is.”

The Elkins Water Treatment Plant provides clean drinking water to about 4,000 customer locations inside city limits as well as to the customers of its resale distributors, the Midland and Leadsville Public Service Districts. All water-treatment and water-distribution operations are performed in strict compliance with regulations imposed by the West Virginia DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To further safeguard city water customers, water board employees also perform spot-testing at various locations around the city on a regular basis.

Find the COE Water Problem Reporter here: www.bit.ly/Water-Problem-Reporter.

Changes to Organizational Structure

Last modified on February 17th, 2022 at 07:13 am

As a result of recent actions by council, the city’s water and sanitary boards are now providing administrative oversight of the city’s water and sewer system operations. See below for more information about this new organizational structure:

  • Water Board: Oversees the city’s water treatment and distribution system. Click here for more information.
  • Sanitary Board: Oversees the city’s wastewater collection and treatment system. Click here for more information.
  • Operations Department: Oversees trash collection, street repair, code enforcement, building permits and inspections, and maintenance and upkeep of city hall and other non-water/non-sewer buildings, facilities, and grounds. Click here for more information.

The city is also actively accepting applications for a new operations manager. Learn more and apply on this page.

Targeting South Elkins Water Problems

New Valves, Better Advance Warning

Elkins, W. Va., December 18, 2021: Elkins Water Board employees are installing new valves and implementing additional notification practices in response to the recent spike in water-main breaks and service interruptions in South Elkins. The purpose of these steps is to reduce the size of the area affected by outages and to provide residents with at least one hour’s warning before most outages.

This year’s huge increase in water-main breaks in South Elkins is the result of a perfect storm of problems both old and new: Corroded cast-iron water pipes long past end of life; exceptionally soft, unstable soil; and further destabilization of that soil by the extensive excavation work for this year’s sewer/stormwater separation project.

A Shortage of Valves

The 19 water outages that have occurred in South Elkins so far during 2021 would be bad enough on their own, but there is an additional factor making them even more painful for the area’s residents: the small number of functioning valves in that section of the water system.

“Past generations weren’t as systematic about installing valves throughout the system as current standards would require,” says Wes Lambert, chief operator of the Elkins water system. “Then too, many of the valves that are in the ground today were put there decades ago and have started to fail.”

Lambert says that the shortage of valves results in water outages across much wider areas than he would prefer.

“Because of how few working valves we have, we try to avoid turning off water to repair leaks, but sometimes there is no way around it,” he explains. “With as few working valves as there are in that part of town, oftentimes we end up being forced to shut off water for most of South Elkins.”

To address the problem of needlessly widespread water outages, Lambert has ordered the installation of five new valves in key locations throughout South Elkins over the next two months. Lambert also has a plan to avoid the outages that would typically be required during the traditional process of valve installation.

“We are doing these as insertion valves,” says Lambert. “That’s a technique where the valve is able to be installed on a live water line without the need to shut the water off.”

Lambert chose this method to avoid causing additional undue burden on the neighborhood’s water customers.

“Insertion valves do end up costing about 30-40 percent more,” he says. “But given the availability of ARPA funds and just how much pain customers in that area have been going through, it seems like a very worthwhile use of the money. These new valves won’t reduce the number of water-line breaks, unfortunately, but they should reduce the need to shut water off across such a wide area every time one does.”

Reducing the number of water-main breaks will require widespread replacement of the failing lines, a project that will likely take the better part of a decade and cost tens of millions of dollars. As a first step in that direction, council recently dedicated a share of the city’s ARPA funds allotment to retaining an engineering firm to formulate a plan for this project. Read more about council’s prioritization of ARPA funds for infrastructure projects here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-focuses-on-infrastructure-for-arpa-funds.

Advance Warning of Water Outages

Lambert has also instituted a new procedure under which the city will provide advance warning before a water outage occurs in most cases.

“We can’t predict when a pipe will spring a leak, but we can almost always get the word out that we are investigating a leak at least an hour before we actually turn the water off,” he says. “There could be exceptions, such as if a truck takes out a hydrant and someone’s basement is being flooded. But in most cases, we can provide at least an hour’s warning and usually a few hours.”

The purpose of this warning is to allow residents to fill bathtubs, finish showers, and make other preparations for a period of low or no water pressure until repairs are complete.

To receive these warnings via text message, customers must sign up for City of Elkins Nixle alerts.

The city’s Nixle alerts, which always begin with the word “Elkins,” are sent by city personnel over the Randolph County OEM Nixle system. Customers who already receive countywide Nixle alerts will still need to sign up separately to receive City of Elkins alerts.

The signup page to receive City of Elkins Nixle alerts is here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/emergency-text-notifications.

Customers needing assistance signing up for this service should email the Office of External Affairs: sstokes@cityofelkinswv.com.

More information about the city’s water system is available here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/living/public-service-utilities/elkins-water-board.

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