Massive leak interrupts water service

A series of leaks in a well located inside the Sports-Plex just west of the Demopolis Higher Education Center left many Marengo County residents lacking water service Thursday.

The leaks, which ultimately resulted in the loss of more than 250,000 gallons of water, started at 3:12 p.m. Wednesday and kept Demopolis Water Department personnel busy throughout the night and deep into Thursday.

“Basically what happened is that it all started about 3:12 p.m. on (Nov. 7). The water transfer line broke going from the well to the storage tank. All total there were about 10 repairs made, which went on into the night during the a.m. hours,” Brooks McCants, head of the Demopolis Water Board, said Thursday evening. “We actually had to go get some aggregate to get the thing repaired. We got done repairing at 2:28 p.m. Right now we’re up to 22 percent of water in the tank and it normally operates between 68 and 95 percent. Right now people should have water, it just won’t be at the pressure that they are accustomed to.”

McCants said water department personnel repaired the initial leak in 13 minutes but encountered further problems throughout the evening.

“Once they responded back to the leak at 8 p.m. last night, they were pretty much on site from 8 o’clock last night until 3 o’clock this morning, attempting multiple repairs,” McCants said. “Then they came back on site at 5:30 this morning because it had broken again and we’ve been on site with it from 5:30 this morning until we had it repaired at 2:48 p.m. this afternoon.”

McCants explained that the source of the problem is likely the improper installation of a hydrant that has been in place since the Sports-Plex was opened.

“As far as the cause of the leak, we believe it to be an improper hydrant installation on the line out near the Sports-Plex. That instance coupled with our clay soil and its shrink/swell characteristics just caused the pipe to keep pulling apart, actually pulled the pipe out of the bell housing,” McCants said. “We had to actually take out the native soil and pack aggregate around the pipe to actually hold it in place, which is what took so long. We couldn’t move that amount of aggregate in the night, so we were making repairs on a prayer so to speak.”

McCants said the tank serves customers over a large portion the western part of the county south of Demopolis down to Myrtlewood.

“It would be most all of Myrtlewood system and customers that are south of the railroad tracks and Dana Suttles and also customers that are located in the Beekeeper area, in the Lem Wilson Road area. It is actually everything that is south of the railroad tracks at Gulf Coast Marine on Hwy 21 and everything south of the railroad tracks at Dana Suttles on 43,” McCants said of those affected by the leaks.

McCants said he anticipates the tank to be fully operational by approximately 11 p.m. Thursday barring any unforeseen circumstances.

He also expressed his gratitude to the public for not interfering in the repair process.

“I was pleased there wasn’t members from the public riding around trying to talk to us, trying to figure out what was going on. They were good about leaving us alone and letting us get the work done and move on,” McCants said. “Repair attempts are very difficult if they don’t go well the first time. Once you’ve had a leak of that magnitude, the soil is just so saturated all around it, it makes the pipe and the fittings not hold together very well.”