Ford City Praised for Fixing Water Leaks

Ford City Borough Engineer Edward Schmitt reported to Council last night that major leaks in the water system have been fixed and presented a positive report.

FORD CITY – Borough Council last night received a glowing report from Gibson-Thomas Engineer Edward Schmitt on the efficiency of the new water distribution system.

Schmitt said that when the engineering firm originally took over the project to install a new water treatment plant in 2015, leaks in the existing distribution system were as high as 47% of the water that was being treated.

“We began to track your water to see how much you were losing in the system,” Schmitt said. “The tracking of unaccounted for water means water that was not billed. You are making it, but you don’t know where it is going. The water leaving the treatment plant was roughly 214 gallons per customer per day. But the customers were only using 108 gallons per day through the meter.”

Schmitt said that now there is 125 gallons per customer per day leaving the plant instead of 214 gallons, and customers are using 102 gallons per day. Therefore, the amount of unaccounted water has drastically been reduced to about 17%.

“So you unaccounted for water has been reduced from 47% system wide to now just 17%. That is a pat on the back to your guys. It’s a good job done by everybody here.”

Schmitt said it’s important to track unaccounted water because the Borough must pay to treat the water but there is no revenue generated from it. He said that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) considers anything under 20% as in the excellent range.

“In the City of Pittsburgh, I know that their unaccounted water is upwards to 50%. With the system as old as yours, when you can get down below 20%, you are doing a good job chasing leaks and managing the distribution system.”

Engineer Ed Schmitt (far top right of frame) discusses the water treatment plant and distribution system. He said the changes have resulted in a 30% savings.

Schmitt said accounted-for water is either water billed or used through a hydrant in case of a fire. The unaccounted water is due most of the time to leaky pipes before it enters the meter at a customer’s house.

Former Council member Vicki Schaub said there are areas along 5th Avenue that have substantial leaks and the water has risen to the surface. Council President Carol Fenyes asked Police Chief Michael Greenlee to bring it to the attention of the Street department for inspection.

Schmitt said that with the 30% savings in water, pumps in the wells have been able to be slowed down to not pump as much water since it isn’t being wasted. This results in additional savings in maintenance and overall costs of conditioning.

“The wells were actually producing more gallons per minute than we expected. So we have turned them back, and you are in good shape with the amount of water it is making.”

Councilwoman Beth Bowser asked about the water quality with regards to it being properly softened. Schmitt said the pH is at the proper levels and is regularly being monitored.

Schmitt also added that a pre-filtration unit has been added to catch any sediment that is being pumped from the well to the water treatment plant. He stated there is still a significant amount of lime deposits in the lines, but that is not hurting the quality of the water.

He also addressed the issue of lead lines in the water distribution system.

“You’ve got lead lines here in some of the homes. If we find them, we notify home owners to take care of their service lines. There were a few of them on 3rd Avenue. Everybody in western Pennsylvania has lead I-joints. Those are where the old cast iron pipes were put together with lead around the joints. As long as your water stays non-aggressive and neutral, that lead doesn’t leach out. As far as I know, Ford City hasn’t had any hits with lead being in the system.”

Schmitt said the contractors will now complete final cosmetic touches around the new water treatment plant and expect a ribbon-cutting open house to be scheduled for sometime in January.