Category Archives: ALD
Analysis shows that 3 to 16 percent of the Bay Area’s treated water is being lost before the meter. This is 23 billion gallons; or enough to meet the needs of 71,000 families per year.
The Corporate Headquarters of American Leak Detection was recently awarded the California Rural Water Association’s 2013 Associate Member of the Year Award. The CRWA’s management team chooses to honor members who go above and beyond the call of duty for both CRWA staff and fellow members, according to Sara Rowe, CRWA’s Director of Internal Operations. Great job team!
Story appeared in the Water Utility Infrastructure Management (UIM) trade magazine, June 2012
Douglasville, Ga.- Joe Keller has been a plumber for 21 years, but he has never experienced a job quite this complicated. The Golden Estates Mobile Home Community’s 50-acre property boasts three types of water pipes, antiquated maps, few isolation valves and pipe depths vary from 1 to 8 ft. underground.
“Their maps look like Civil War-type documents with faded blue lines and all,” said Keller, owner of K & C Plumbing & Septic Services. “It’s hard not knowing exactly where the lines are and this isn’t nice, easy digging. I asked their manager, ‘You heard of that Disney movie “Holes”? Rent it ‘cause that’s your property.’”
The property’s water loss had gradually worsened over five years’ time. But in February 2011, the Golden Estates Community received a $27,050.95 bill for consuming more than 2 million gallons of water in a 35-day billing cycle. Buckner Group Regional Manager Crissy King said she didn’t know who to call or where to begin. Compared to the same month the previous year, the community was suddenly consuming 560,000 gallons more and spending an excess of $8,100.
She suspected there may be a water leak but there was little evidence to prove it. No one had noticed unusual surface water bubbling up and their pavement and lawns were dry. The private property comprised of 234 lots has a commercial water meter. Management bills residents each month after sub-meters monitor individual usage.
During the most problematic month, 850,000 gallons of water were unaccounted for due to unknown leaks. Three years worth of water usage was flowing from the faucets and underground pipes in a 30 day period. This mystery was costing approximately $15,500 per month and could not be billed to residents.
Contacting a specialist
King initially hired two plumbers to comb the property for leaks, but neither could locate the supposed issue. After becoming more frustrated with the local plumbers’ lack of expertise, she searched the Better Business Bureau online and stumbled across American Leak Detection of Greater Atlanta.
Although the property is quite large, there were only four sections containing isolation valves. Working on one of the four quadrants each day, maintenance workers turned off these valves and individual sub-meters while leak specialists used pressurized gases to determine which section was losing water. Pressurized gas locators were also used due to the unknown location of the lines and size of the system.
During the first service call, technicians shut off the isolation valves and concluded the main meter was leaking approximately 25 gallons of water per minute. Eventually, the major leaks were isolated in the older, rear section of the park. After performing another isolation test, it was determined the front half of the park did not have any underground leaks. Each of the eight fire hydrants were also checked for low water flow rates.
The leaks were caused by a common culprit- aging infrastructure. The community was originally constructed in the mid-1970s and utilizes a combination of PVC, galvanized and polybutylene water pipes.
It was necessary to dig by hand since the water and electrical lines were installed in the same trench and PVC pipes are largely untraceable.
“I had a couple guys out there digging by hand for three weeks,” Keller said. “Sometimes we had dug 8 ft. deep and still didn’t reach a line. Common sense for laying pipes on that property went out the window. It makes you wonder why the last plumber did it like this. I’ve decided that plumbing is just like people- they all have their own quirks and ticks.”
It’s common to have more pipe leakage when the water and electrical lines are installed so close together, according to Jimmy Carter, senior director of corporate field services. A current is released from the electrical line, causing electrolysis or a type of magnetic field on the metal piping.
Tracking water loss totals
Throughout the detection and repair process, King tracked the community’s water usage daily by creating meticulous spreadsheets. These stats enabled her to call the water company each month to make sure the meter amounts matched exactly and weren’t fluctuating.
“Everyone at the water company unfortunately knows me,” King said. “I make my monthly stalker call to Perry and we’re BFF’s now! Once I get their reading and amount on our water usage, I can record that and then we get a rate adjustment once repairs are done.”
Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority Customer Service Representative Perry McKenzie has helped customers tackle unruly water bills and conserve water for 18 years. Homeowners have outlandish water bills all the time, he said. But trying to manage and judge water usage for a community the size of Golden Estates proves to be more challenging.
“This is a community in and of itself,” he said. “I’ve seen my fair share of toilet or irrigation leaks but this is different because people are coming and going all the time and it’s hard to get a consistent track record of water usage. Their occupancy rates always play a role when we see their usage is fluctuating. It’s a complicated thing and hard to judge.”
So far, King has received a $20,000 credit from the water authority in 2011 and she plans to apply for another this year.
The 15-month process to locate the underground lines, find hidden leaks and make necessary repairs is ongoing. Leak technicians continue to install isolation valves throughout the park. This project will divide half the property into thirds and make it easier to shut lines off for future repair. More leaks have started to surface as this process unfolds because adding pressure and turning the lines on and off stresses the aging pipes.
“The leaks are becoming more prominent now that the lines were drained,” said King. “We’ve seen our usage shoot up steadily between 1-4,000 gallons a day. Trust me; I know when our usage goes up even a small amount.”
Golden Estates management lost more than $100,000 a year in 2011 and $250,000 over three years due to hidden leaks. In the first four months of 2012, they have already saved $50,000 in water fees and are consuming 45 percent less water than the previous year.
“My bosses are very happy we’re spending the time, effort and money to address this issue now instead of down the road,” King said. “The money we’re spending to hire American Leak Detection is worth every penny and nothing compared to the amount we’re saving from water loss and rebates. We tried other companies but we finally found a good one who can help us.”
Manhattan, NY.- The Exxon Building overlooks the now empty Avenue of the Americas Fountain. Suspecting a leak, property management personnel called the experts from American Leak Detection to investigate.
At 7 a.m. Sept. 3, specially trained technicians from American Leak Detection of New York City will inspect a dozen of the high-powered water jets in the well-known landmark located at the western edge of Rockefeller Center and opposite Radio City Music Hall. According to Travis Huang, general manager of American Leak Detection NYC, the 100-by-100 foot fountain must be replenished with water often.
“Leaks are a minor inconvenience in small fountains and pools, but when you have a fountain of this size, even a few leaks will result in losing tens of thousands of gallons of water each day,” Huang said. “Leaks are not only costly and destructive to property, they also waste precious resources. A water leak the size of a pinhead can discharge up to 970 gallons of water every 24 hours. That is 360,000 gallons a year, enough to fill 12,000 bathtubs.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made conserving water a top priority earlier this year by initiating the Leak Notification Program that alerts homeowners when spikes in usage are detected. Property management personnel are taking the Mayor’s call to action seriously by responding quickly to the problem.
“It’s commendable the building management has decided to take the route which will not only save them from future high water bills,” added Huang, “but it puts them at the forefront of corporate responsibility concerning water conservation.”
American Leak Detection has provided leak detection services for more than 35 years. Each technician has completed the industry’s most extensive training program and is skilled to accurately locate the most difficult leaks, without destruction to property.
Roseburg, Ore.- American Leak Detection technician Dan Schaffner spent three days diligently surveying 20 miles of pipe to locate a hidden leak causing Roseburg to lose 1,200 gallons of treated water per minute, totaling up to 2 million gallons a day. The city’s reservoir supply had dropped so drastically, officials initially asked more than 10,000 water customers to conserve resources.
The source of the leak had stumped local water officials since Friday morning when staff made them aware of the need to pump more water. City crews spent four days trying to locate the elusive gusher with outdated maps, but they ultimately decided to call in the experts.
“This was a complicated job,” says Tony Dietrich, city water superintendent. “Our reservoirs were barely maintaining and we needed their help to isolate the systems. We didn’t have the tools or experience their techs have to locate the leak.”
Using sonic listening equipment, Schaffner discovered an unknown secondary valve to a line crossing the river. Once this buried valve was closed, the reservoirs began to fill within an hour. Although the pipes are decades old, Dietrich blames recent heavy rainfall for causing the issue. To be proactive in locating other suspected leaks, he said the city is considering hiring American Leak Detection to perform a system-wide survey.
American Leak Detection has served the entire state of Oregon and Southwest Washington since Matthew and Shari Botermans purchased the territory in 2001. They operate six trucks and employ a staff of 10 from their office in Talent. Technicians are based in Medford, Eugene, Salem, Portland and Vancouver. The city of Roseburg has utilized American Leak Detection’s services for difficult jobs since 2002.