City preps for water pipe system overhaul
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 05:12
Aging Newark water pipes on Kells and Wollaston avenues will be sprayed with cement lining to address reported problems, and the project is expected to be completed by Dec. 25, according to city officials.
Roy Simonson, director of the city's water and wastewater department, said residents located in older parts of the city whose houses are connected to unlined cast iron pipes built prior to 1965 may experience problems with discoloration and flow.
The area of piping near Kells and Wollaston avenues is the most problematic, and the city's water main relining project will address those issues. According to Simonson, this will be "just the start" of water main relining projects the city will undertake "as the years go by."
State Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South), who has lived on Kells Avenue for less than a year, noticed discolored water and low water flow as soon as he and his wife moved in.
"We've had a lot of clothes ruined, stains in our toilets, and quite frankly I don't know what type of dietary effects the water has if you drink it," Kowalko said. "It's not a pleasant experience even when it's only mildly brown."
According to Ron Walker, 70, who lives on Kells Avenue, Simonson suggested residents of his street and Wollaston Avenue shouldn't drink their water until the project is completed.
"You just never knew what you were going to have when you turned on the faucet," Walker said.
District 4 City Councilman Dave Athey, who also lives on Kells Avenue, said problems with older pipe systems are widespread.
"Our aging infrastructure is an enormous problem throughout the whole country," Athey said. "The city of Newark is spending literally millions of dollars every year relining pipes."
Athey said older pipes lose their capacity and pressure, and need to be routinely cleaned out. The city attempted to utilize a new cost-effective process to address the problems in August, exposing the pipes. Water chemically reacted with the newly exposed pipe surface, causing the water discoloration.
This reaction cannot occur when water is flowing, so officials have kept water running from hydrants. When the temperature drops, however, that water could freeze, so the department began the water main relining project, Athey said.
Simonson said the department hired a contractor to set up a temporary water system to serve homes on Kells and Wollaston avenues.
"We'll expose the pipe in a couple of locations so they can get access, clean it, cement line it and put it back together," he said. "The contractor is on-site now and we're getting ready to put the temporary piping in."
Simonson said the city completed water main-relining projects on both Main Street and Kirkwood Highway in the past, so officials know what to expect.
"The contractor knows exactly what he's doing," he said. "As time goes on, we'll perfect our side of the project and it will get easier and easier for us."
Residents will be asked to run a faucet at night, without cost added to their bills, so the temporary pipes don't freeze. While Simonson understands this is an inconvenience, he said residents have responded well to the city's efforts.
"They certainly were frustrated that the dirty water continued, but they're pleased that we have a plan to permanently deal with the problem," he said. "So far, we've gotten positive feedback from folks."
City employees have walked door-to-door with handouts informing residents about new updates in the project, according to Athey.
A notice on Friday informed Kells Avenue and Wollaston Avenue residents about a community meeting to be held by the city's water and wastewater department Monday night. The notice said the contractor will be present to answer questions and provide additional information regarding the water main relining project.
Walker referred to the city's plans to put cement lining on the old pipes as "Band-Aid repairs" and wanted to ask why the city isn't simply replacing the mains entirely.