If you call the main number for Evansville Water and Sewer Utilities, you’ll hear this:
“For an emergency water or sewer backup, press 4.”
The next time callers need to “press 4” in Evansville, hopefully it won’t become a situation like the one in Owensboro.
“It would be massive, if we have a problem there,” says Evansville Water and Sewer Utility Director Allen Mounts. “The Owensboro situation really heightens how catastrophic a break in the aging infrastructure is, and the importance of getting out in front of that.”
Evansville has five main water pipes dating back to the early 1900’s that run from the water filtration plant on Waterworks road each pipe is 30 to 48 inches wide, compared to Owensboro’s pipe at 20 to 24 inches.
A break would be catastrophic. And the damage would not stop Vanderburgh County.
“What people may not realize is that out of our thousands of miles of water line, we also sell water to Gibson county and water goes all the way up to Toyota, and they take care of Northwest Warrick County, and we sell it to German township and the water goes almost all the way over to Mount Vernon,” says Mounts.
Many of the old pipes are 14 under the roads, which makes maintaining them and repairing them difficult. That’s why the city is using new technology to decrease the chance of water main breaks.
"I'll call it a smart ball. Smart ball is like a high-powered computer/sonar system. They build a vault over the big lane, cut a hole in it while the water's still moving, keep it under pressure and drop this ball in there. And it does readings of the thickness of the pipe."
Using this technology, Mounts says they’ve identified several spots on pipes under riverside drive that need repairs. They plan on taking care of that – and pipe replacement under waterworks road – in the next couple years.
That preventative technology comes with a price tag of several hundred thousand dollars.
But that number might pale in comparison to the cost of clean-up.
“Think about if you happen to be in Owensboro, and you didn’t have water or you didn’t have good quality water, life would kind of come to a halt.”
Evansville Water and Sewer Utility has plans to repair several main lines in the next few years. That is in addition to the planned sewer project that is set to begin next year. Those two projects will alleviate some of Evansville’s water and sewage problems, but are separate initiatives.
For more on Refresh Evansville, click here.
(This story was originally published July 11, 2018)
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