2018-03-07 / News

Costly pipe leak requires early repair in Lexington

BY MARGARET WHITMER
Reporter


A crew from Lexington's water plant makes temporary repairs to a broken pipe south of Union and M-90. 
Photo by Margaret Whitmer A crew from Lexington's water plant makes temporary repairs to a broken pipe south of Union and M-90. Photo by Margaret Whitmer LEXINGTON — A crew from the municipal water plant worked last week to staunch a water leak that was costing the village up to $500 a day in lost retail water sales.

Plant workers began noticing that a substantial amount of water was being lost from an unknown source around Feb. 8.

“We knew we were losing about one hundred thousand gallons of water a day from somewhere, but at first we didn’t know where,” said Water Plant Supervisor Chris Heiden. "It happened right after the cold snap, when it was six below zero."

At first it was suspected the leak may be coming from inside one of the many summer homes that are unoccupied during the winter. Workers went door to door, checking vacant homes for water in basements, but didn't find the leak there.

After weeks of searching, the crew found the leaking pipe south of the intersection of Union Street and Peck Road (M-90).

“Once the frost melted, the water started coming up. Before, it was going into the storm drain,” Heiden said.

Workers on Feb. 27 dug down and placed a temporary cap on the leak until it can be permanently repaired this spring.

"In the next five-six weeks, we have a contractor scheduled to come in to completely replace the main underneath M-90," Heiden said.

“We have the money in the budget,” he told village council members on Feb. 26. “We didn’t anticipate spending it at this time. But this is an emergency situation.”

The crew waited until after buses had transported students to school and worked quickly to affect the repair before school let out in the afternoon. No customers lost water service in the meantime.

This leak was the latest to cause trouble this winter. In early January, crews had to staunch two pipeline breaks on Simons Street. Those pipes also will be replaced this summer.

Village President Kristen Kaatz said the emergency repair won’t affect the water department budget or future projects. “It was money we planned to spend anyway. It was sitting in savings,” she said.

In other business, council heard from Croswell EMS Director Tim Niggemeyer about major changes taking place in the emergency service industry.

Niggemeyer said Croswell EMS will have to make some radical changes regarding staffing and financing to remain viable and he is asking for input from the communities that contract with the service.

Croswell EMS is the last ambulance service in the area that staffs volunteers. A number of factors are making those volunteers harder to get and Croswell must seriously consider switching to paid staffing and benefit packages, he said.

Ambulance services make most of their money not from emergency runs, but with transfers to and from hospitals and nursing homes. Croswell EMS is hampered because there is no hospital and few nursing homes in the area, Niggemeyer said.

Medicaid expansion and insurance changes also are limiting the income stream, he said.

An ambulance millage, or creation of a countywide ambulance authority, were two suggestions made by council members. Niggemeyer agreed those were good ideas.

Council agreed to work with Niggemeyer to brainstorm solutions.

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