Originally created 07/23/98

Water main gives supply more relief



Augusta's water supply got a shot in the arm Wednesday as water officials began pumping millions of additional gallons into the city's reservoirs.

Augustans can breathe a sigh of relief today. The recent water crisis appears to be ending, and plans are being implemented to prevent future problems, said utilities department officials.

The valve to a 42-inch water line was opened, as expected, Wednesday morning, and water was being pumped at full capacity by 4 p.m. The 4-mile line is allowing the city to pump 10 million more gallons of water a day from the Savannah River to the raw water reservoirs, said Max Hicks, utilities director.

"The most difficult times are now behind us," he said. "It's all come together now. We just had a tough month-and-a-half to two months."

With the addition of the 42-inch line the city is now pumping 42 million gallons of water a day, 10 million gallons more than the demand, Mr. Hicks said.

Tom Wiedmeier, assistant utilities director, said water levels at the reservoirs would be monitored, and when levels neared the full mark of 29 feet, a decision will probably be made to lift all water restrictions.

"Once that happens, I don't see any reason why we would need water restrictions," he said.

Currently, Augusta residents are under odd-even watering restriction, but there is no time restriction on how much they may water on their day.

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the East reservoir was measured at 19 feet, 3 inches, and the West reservoir was at 22 feet. Levels at the reservoir have risen five feet, two inches and three feet, respectively, since last Saturday night.

Mr. Hicks said that no leaks or potential problems had been found in the line by late Wednesday afternoon, which is good news for utilities department workers.

"It's good to get this (42-inch line) pumping," Mr. Wiedmeier said. "We've had a lot of snags on the way. It's new problems we've faced and we've worked them out."

The most recent in a series of problems came during the weekend, when water officials had expected to begin pumping water through the pipeline, but repairs to a section of the line at the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and Peachtree Place were delayed.

"It's just been frustrating at times and at times it's been disappointing," said Mr. Hicks. "But our determination was just as strong that we would get through this."

Meanwhile, he said, city officials have already begun to take preventive measures to avoid future water problems.

He said that the city commission approved the purchase of two spare runners for the No. 1 turbine and No. 4 turbine, which will cost a total of about $225,000. A new diesel engine has been ordered, and the vertical turbine pump, which broke down May 21, has been repaired. Also, the construction of a 60-inch water line is expected to begin by early next year and be completed within 18 months after construction begins.

Mr. Hicks said he plans to present a plan for new raw water facilities and that the utilities department has moved toward implementing the Richmond County grand jury's recommendations.

In response to the recent water crisis, a grand jury examined the water department facilities and records and interviewed government officials.

The grand jury's recommendations included appointing a finance officer, ending the city's practice of transferring the department's revenue to the general fund and establishing preventive maintenance schedules.