Originally created 07/20/98

Water main repairs to finish



Augusta utilities officials hope today will be the day repairs are completed on the problem-ridden Berckmans Road water main that has been the focus of a water crisis for weeks.

Once the final repair is completed on an entry port at Peachtree Place near Bellevue Avenue -- near Daniel Village, a few blocks south of Berckmans Road -- utility crews will begin filling the four-mile-long, 42-inch-wide line with water to test for leaks, Assistant Utilities Director Tom Wiedemeier said Sunday.

"We'll fill it very slowly. It will take most of a day to fill it," he said. "We'll be keeping an eye open for leaks, particularly at those repair sections we've been working on this past week."

The water filling the pipe will probably come straight from the reservoirs, he said, because that would give officials more control over the flow than if they pumped directly from Augusta Canal. The water main, idle since 1996, links Augusta Canal with the city's water-intake plant.

Once the water main is brought back on line, it will pump an additional 10 million gallons of water a day into city reservoirs. That should lead to easing of outdoor-watering restrictions imposed on Augustans since May 22, officials said.

Meanwhile, Augusta continued on an odd-even schedule for outdoor watering. Residents with odd-numbered addresses may water on odd-numbered days, and those with even-numbered addresses may water on even days. They may water for one hour at a time, whatever hour they choose.

Columbia County residents also are on a strict watering schedule. Outdoor watering is allowed from 5 to 9 a.m. and from 5 to 9 p.m. on an odd-even rotation.

"I think if we have that tendency to pop up a thunderstorm every five to seven days, we would go back to even-odd" without the hourly restrictions, said Billy Clayton, Columbia County water and sewer superintendent. "I think we'll just hang with odd-even through the end of the summer to keep from confusing our customers."

Augusta water customers received their monthly bills last week and several were upset by higher charges than they anticipated, Augusta Commissioner Moses Todd said Sunday.

Many customers were billed for 35 days instead of the usual 30- or 31-day cycle, he said, which put them over the minimum water-use rate and cost them an additional charge.

Mr. Todd believes waterworks officials made the change on purpose to begin raising extra money to finance repairs and new equipment.

But Mr. Wiedemeier said the longer billing cycle was the result of trying to get all customers on the same schedule and integrate two computer databases.

"We did implement a new billing system that went on line last month," Mr. Wiedemeier said. "I'm not sure whether that altered any of the cycles and the read dates. But I can assure you there's been no plan to drive people over the minimum usage."

Staff Writer Debbie Steele contributed to this article.