Rural Water, Neighboring Community, Assist When Line Break Empties Banner Elk Water Tanks

BANNER ELK, N.C. – When a massive line break drained the tanks of Banner Elk, N.C., assistance from the North Carolina Rural Water Association and the neighboring community of Beech Mountain helped restore service.

“The town was having trouble keeping enough water in the tanks,” explained NCRWA Circuit Rider Keith Buff. A Circuit Rider is a roving water expert that provides assistance to utilities.

Banner Elk was experiencing line breaks from colder-than-normal temperatures.

“The lines were buried well enough for normal cold, but this year was extremely cold – below zero for several days,” Buff said. “They had service lines breaking and meters freezing.”

The Circuit Rider began locating leaks in the community, identifying several smaller leaks in the distribution system.

“I was doing leak detection when the line blew out,” Buff said. “I didn’t locate it through leak detection; it blew out of the ground.”

The massive leak was estimated at 100,000 gallons per day, and it emptied Banner Elk’s water tanks. Buff suspects that other leaks had allowed air into the line, which caused the line to blow out.

Buff continued repairing smaller leaks and helped the town with issuing their Boil Water Advisory. Beech Mountain, an adjacent community, sent five workers, a vacuum truck and two pumps to assist with repairing the leak.

“To me, that’s the best part of the story,” Buff said, “to see communities help each other and provide mutual aid. It probably cost $5,000 or $6,000 to send help.”

Even with the extra assistance, the leak’s location created more problems for the repair crews. The line was located next to a creek and recent heavy rains had soaked the surrounding soil.

“When they dug to the line, the creek broke into the ditch,” Buff said. “It was a mess.”

They worked for 12 hours to repair all the leaks and restore water pressure.