The Webster City Street Department is responsible for maintaining the water distribution system that carries potable water from the water treatment plant to residential, commercial and industrial consumers, while maintaining firefighting requirements. The distribution system consists of 67 miles of water main, 500 fire hydrants, and 1,350 valves.
Every spring and fall the Webster City Street Department, Fire Department, and Water Plant flush all 500 fire hydrants. Operating these fire hydrants twice a year helps lubricate the internal mechanisms and allows operators to check for functionality. Some of the checklist items while operating the hydrant include; checking for leaks, cap threads are still functional, check for loose bolts near breakaway flange, does the hydrant bleed back when shut down, and how well does the operating shaft work. If an issue is discovered during the inspection, it will be added to a work order for maintenance or replacement. During this time staff also records static pressure, residual pressure, pitot test, and documents a gallons per minute based off the pressures. It is required by law that staff regularly flow tests to ensure that all fire hydrants can supply adequate water during an emergency.
The majority of Webster Cities water mains are made up of cast iron and ductal iron pipe material. Flushing the water distribution system helps to remove all sediments and deposits that may have attached to the walls of the pipe.
If you are using water when a fire hydrant is being flushed in your neighborhood, the water that we are scouring out of the distribution system could be drawn to your homes plumbing system. You may notice a slightly discolored (light orange or brown color) tint of water but don’t be alarmed it is safe. Turn on an outside spicket or inside sink to allow water to run for 5-15 minutes. This will get rid of the discolored water.
Every spring the City of Webster City uses Westrum Leak Detection to discover and pinpoint any water leaks in the distribution system. This service has pinpointed water main breaks where water never reached the surface, lateral service line leaks, and fire hydrants that don’t get shut down all the way.
Westrum Leak Detection uses computer and audio equipment on fire hydrants, distribution valves and private curb stops to correlate the leak within a few feet. Not only does this service save the city money it saves time by precisely locating the leak and eliminating unwarranted digging. Finding these leaks also lowers the city’s water pumping total by repairing the unforeseen leeks in a timely manner. Each spring this service is performed on the entire water distribution system.
A valve exercising program is a vital maintenance technique performed by staff every spring and fall. Staff exercises 350 of its 1350 a year. Valve exercising consists of fully opening and fully closing the valve to ensure the valve is operational and documented. Opening and closing the valve multiple times can dislodge corrosion or sediment that if left alone could cause a valve to seize and fail. While staff is out addressing water main valves they also look for valve boxes that are full of dirt and debris, correct or tweak valve location of GIS map, collect information on valve rotations (GIS map), identify and budget problematic or broken valves, and condition of street surface surrounding valve box/lid.
Each year staff replaces multiple valves and fire hydrants to ensure accessibility and function ability for all water distribution infrastructure. Valve and fire hydrant replacement criteria is based off yearly maintenance records, how it affects the distribution system, and fire protection. Parts availability for aging infrastructure is becoming harder to get from vendors and complete replacement is becoming staffs only option. Some of our older fire hydrants and valves were installed in the 1960’s and are at the end of their useful life. New valves allow staff to isolate a smaller area (homes) in the event of a broken water main or distribution repair. The least amount of water services staff has to affect the better off it is for our customers. All of the new fire hydrants we install are required to have a break away flange at the base of the hydrant, one 6-inch steamer opening, and two 3 ½ inch openings allowing for improved fire protection and increased flow rates.
The Webster City Street Department is responsible for repairing and replacing any water main pipe in the event of a water main break. A water main can break for multiple reasons however the two most common ways include: freezing and thawing soils create movement in the ground that can bend or shift water mains and Electrolysis. Other contributing factors that play into the deterioration include pipe age, pipe material, and accidents. Webster City distribution system is made up of ductal iron pipe, cast iron pipe, and plastic. Since 2010 Webster City has roughly 20 water main breaks a year which mainly occur during the winter months.
When a water main break occurs Street Department staff prioritizes work by considering the following factors:
• Public Safety
• Traffic Impact
• Water Service disruption
• Water Loss
• Location of break
• Utilities near the affected area
• Weather conditions
In order to repair a water main break staff must temporarily shut off water in the affected areas because the flow of pressurized water is too strong for repairs to be made. In the affected area door hangers will be handed out to all impacted customers informing them of the water outage and advising them how long work is expected to last. Once the water main break is repaired, streets and ROW will be temporarily restored depending on the time of year. Customers may also experience discoloration in their drinking water due to stirring up the sediments in the distribution system. This problem can be solved by running a faucet or outside spicket 10-15 minutes until the water runs clear.
In the event a boil order advisory is warranted, customers will receive a door hanger notifying them of a water supply problem and protocols to be taken to keep them safe.