Maine Rural Water Assists Community with Leak that Drains Half of Reservoir

DEXTER, Maine – Tom Crawford checked the Dexter reservoir in the morning and saw it had lost nearly half its water, and levels were dropping fast. Timely assistance from the Maine Rural Water Association helped locate a leak in an unknown water main and prevent the community from losing water.

Broken six-inch line.

“It was a real emergency,” explained Crawford, the Superintendent for the Dexter Utilities District. “Within four hours we lost over half a million gallons.”

Dexter utility workers tried to locate the leak on their own, but they didn’t have the necessary equipment. In some cases, they resorted to holding screwdrivers to fire hydrants to try to listen to leaks. There was no sign of water rising to the surface, which should occur with such a large water loss. That’s when they contacted MRWA for assistance.

“I had just arrived at a training class when Dexter called,” said Andy Gilson, an MRWA Circuit Rider. “They were in a panic because the reservoir was dropping like a rock.”

Gilson started using listening equipment to narrow down the location of the leak. He identified a general position for the leak, but Dexter officials didn’t know of any possible lines in the area.

“It happens all the time,” Gilson said. “There’s a lot of stuff that people put into the ground and no one recorded the location.”

Gilson used data loggers to trace potential locations for the leak. The loggers collect information such as noise or, in some cases, water pressure over time to locate potential leaks. The loggers narrowed the leak to a neighborhood near a stream, but utility personnel didn’t know of any other lines in the area. Gilson used a metal detector along the mapped water line and located a previously-unknown valve.

“There was a bump and as soon as I saw it I knew there was a v

Diverting the stream to make repairs to the broken main.

alve there,” Gilson said. “Frost had raised and lowered the valve and worked it to the surface. They didn’t have to dig far to uncover it.”

The valve connected to a six-inch line that lead toward a neighborhood across the stream.

“The system personnel knew the neighborhood was being served by a main from the other side, but they didn’t know there was a second main that crossed the stream,” Gilson said.

The Circuit Rider used a line locator to follow the main to another valve near the stream. He used that valve to isolate the main and confirm that the leak was somewhere under the stream. The repair required the utility to divert the stream and replace ten feet of main under the stream. It was a complicated process that required the cooperation of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Gilson’s assistance helped prevent Dexter from losing water and located a difficult leak.

“Andy is really good at what he does,” Crawford said. “He was a huge help to our community. I don’t know if I could have found it without him.”