MRWA Assistance Helps Community Repair Seemingly Impossible Leak Under Lake

ELYSIAN, Minn. – Ron Greenwald stood on the lake shore in Elysian, Minn., trying to find a way to repair a leak under eight feet of water. Assistance from the Minnesota Rural Water Association helped run a temporary service line and locate critical pipes so that Elysian could repair the leak at considerable savings.

“We had a substantial leak that was causing a loss of pressure,” said Greenwald, the Elysian Water Superintendent. “We knew it was in an eight-inch line under the lake that fed a subdivision.”

Elysian workers took a boat onto the lake to try to spot any sign of pressurized water under the surface. They found water bubbling to the surface over 60 yards from shore. That’s when they contacted Minnesota Rural Water for assistance.

“They asked if I had equipment that could locate a leak under a lake,” said Jeff Dale, an MRWA Circuit Rider. Circuit Riders are roving water experts that provide technical assistance to communities in their area. “Unfortunately, the pipe was HDPE, which doesn’t conduct sound. There’s not many ways to locate a leak under eight feet of water.”

Elysian planned to run a temporary water service line that would supply the subdivision water while the city laid a new water main to the peninsula.

“There’s no easy way to repair a broken pipe under eight feet of water,” Dale said.

While the city consulted with a engineers and contractors about the temporary service line, Dale assisted crews by locating where the water line entered the lake and emerged again on the peninsula. Dale’s line locating equipment found where the main entered the peninsula and revealed that there was no valve that could be used to isolate the broken line. The city had a contractor install a new valve to close both ends of the broken line.

Once the valve was installed, Elysian had a plan to run an eight-inch temporary line to the peninsula.

“The original plan was to run an eight-inch line from fire hydrant to fire hydrant,” Greenwald explained.

Running the eight-inch line would cost Elysian several thousand dollars and require several weeks to acquire materials.

“It would be a week or more for the contractor to get the eight-inch pipe,” Greenwald said. “We also needed to find fittings that would join the eight-inch to the fire hydrants.”

Dale examined the plan and started calculating if Elysian needed such a large main to supply the homes on the peninsula.

“He asked us some questions about our flow and pressure and ran some calculations,” Greenwald said.

After consulting with the Operations Specialist at a nearby utility, Dale concluded that Elysian could supply the subdivision with only a two-inch temporary line.

“I did some calculations and discussed it with Dominic Jones from Red Rock Rural Water,” Dale explained. “We were confident they could adequately supply that subdivision with a two-inch line.”

Using two-inch water line would save the community thousands of dollars and speed up the repair process.

“The contractor had plenty of two-inch line in his yard, and we wouldn’t need special fittings to connect to the hydrants,” Greenwald said. “The project went from a two-week to a one-day time frame.”

Elysian laid the two-inch temporary line along a bike path and connected to the nearest fire hydrant for the subdivision. The city switched to the temporary line without a disruption in service.

“The two-inch line worked great,” Dale said. “No one noticed a change.”

“It was a great idea,” Greenwald said. “He saved us thousands of dollars.”

With the temporary line in place, Elysian began working to repair the leaking main. During the work, they located the leak at a coupling that was much closer to shore. The pressure from the water main pushed the leaking water along the line and made it appear the leak was much farther into the lake. Elysian was able to make the repair without dewatering part of the lake or running a new main.

“Jeff helped us a lot,” Greenwald said. “He’s a great asset to small communities.”