Source of town’s water problems blamed on high demand

Source of town’s water problems blamed on high demand

CUMBERLAND – Water problems that had residents of Arnold Mills and Abbott Run concerned about the condition of their drinking supply were caused by the Cumberland Water Department’s attempts to address exceptionally high demand, said Supt. Chris Champi.

Champi told The Valley Breeze Tuesday that the department pretty much had all issues addressed by last Wednesday, Aug. 28, after water discoloration issues began prior to the previous weekend. He emphasized that these issues were in limited areas.

According to Champi, heavy demand on the water supply two weeks ago caused tank levels to drop dramatically, "not to a bad spot, but lower than normal." When the Water Department began refilling the tanks on Friday, Aug. 23, water began moving with greater velocity through the pipes, "scouring" the sediment and breaking it free.

Officials had to pinpoint the section that was causing problems, he said, and determined that it was in the Sneech Pond Road area near North Cumberland Middle School. That conclusion was drawn because there is a new water line in Diamond Hill Road and there weren’t many calls coming from Nate Whipple Highway, where the water plant was sending out clean water, said Champi.

Workers were able to address the trouble spot by flushing on Sneech Pond Road near the corner of Nate Whipple, a process that took some time. Unlike with regular flushing, where crews go from one end of the town to the other and can turn off valves as they go, keeping water flowing in the same direction, they couldn’t just open up the hydrants and blast out water, said Champi. They had to move enough water through "flushing passively" in impacted areas without "riling it up in other directions." That flushing couldn’t happen at full velocity.

The goal, said Champi, was to remove enough dislodged sediment without dislodging additional sediment from areas not impacted by the issue.

"It’s a tough section to do that in," he said, noting that this was near a main trunkline by the water treatment plan going in three directions: south on Diamond Hill, north on Diamond Hill, and east on Nate Whipple.

Many of the residents who complained about dirty water last week noted that this has been a recurring problem in Cumberland for years. Town officials maintain that discoloration does not equal unhealthy drinking water.

Asked for an update on odors detected through testing last summer, Champi said there have been a few complaints this year but nothing like last. No one has requested testing, he said.

"Water temperatures haven’t gotten as high," he said, saying Sneech Pond has been at around 72 degrees, negating the organics that caused taste and odor issues last year. The taste of the water should not be an issue as temperatures drop, he said.

Comments

The real source of the problem is old pipes, though, right?

Kind of odd to say the source is usage. If the pipes weren't so old (and rusty), the high usage would not lead to discolored water.

What is the town doing to fix the real problem here? Flushing the pipes seems like a bandaid when the patient needs surgery.