PUXICO, Mo. – When the manager of Wayne/Butler County #4 started getting late-night calls from customers without water, she knew she needed help. Assistance from the Missouri Rural Water Association helped locate the leaks and restore water service.
“I got the call at around 10 p.m. that night,” explained Brad Rayburn, a MRWA Circuit Rider. “They had customers without water and the towers were empty.”
Rayburn met with General Manger Jennifer Pierce and operations specialist Jason Pierce to provide assistance. The system’s two 150,000 gallon towers had emptied in just a few hours, leaving 700 customers without water.
Rayburn and Jason Pierce went to the well house to check the pumps.
“One of their wells was hit by lightning the month before and the motor had to be replaced,” Rayburn said. “They had problems with the wells not turning on when they should.”
After a few hours in the well house, Rayburn and Pierce determined that the pumps were working properly.
“That meant they had a major leak somewhere,” Rayburn said.
With the darkness becoming a problem, they decided to break and resume work in the morning.
The next day Rayburn and Pierce started looking for the leak. The conditions made locating the leak extremely difficult – there was no water in the system and there had been recent heavy rain in the area.
“The system had over 200 miles of pipe, and several miles were only accessible by foot,” Rayburn said. “it was difficult to locate without water in the system.”
Leaks are typically located by looking for water seeping to the surface or using listening equipment to detect the sound of the leak. Rayburn and Pierce decided to try to isolate part of the system, which would allow them to narrow the search area and restore service to part of the community.
“The system was split in two parts: north and south,” Rayburn said. “The district has an emergency well and a boost up station that allowed us to direct the water to either side.”
After a few hours, the north part of the district began to fill, indicating the leak was in the south. Rayburn directed the water into the south end.
“Once we got some water in the pipes I could use the leak detection equipment to listen for the leak,” he explained.
Rayburn and Pierce located the leak in an eight-inch water main. The Circuit Rider remained to assist with the repair.
“It was a lot more difficult than putting a clamp around the pipe,” Rayburn said. “The main was split and the entire 20-foot section had to be replaced.”
The repair lasted until nearly midnight. When the pipe was replaced, they returned to the well house, activated the pumps and waited for the towers to fill.
“We waited and waited and waited, but the tower never filled,” Rayburn said. “I thought the repair didn’t hold.”
They checked the repairs, but everything had held. Rayburn started listening to valves again, and determined there was another leak somewhere in the system. Facing the challenge of locating another leak at night in the large system, they decided to return and repair the second leak the next day.
Jennifer Pierce contacted the Red Cross to bring a pallet of bottled water for customers still without service. Rayburn and Jason Pierce located another split eight-inch water main. After another repair, they returned to the well house to reactivate the pumps. There was only one more complication.
“We had to turn off the pumps because there was a tornado siren,” Rayburn explained. “Luckily there was no tornado.”
The tower levels finally began to rise and water service was finally restored to the community.