The city of New Albany will not be seeking a new source of water for its supply as an answer to its issues with dirty water.
Bill Mattox, manager of New Albany’s Light, Gas & Water, has submitted a recommendation to the New Albany Board of Aldermen that the city stick with its current water supply, the Eutaw-McShands Aquifer out of Eutaw, Ala.
Mattox made the recommendation after nearly a year of studying the city’s water supply to find an answer to its problems with the buildup of manganese in water pipes, which has been the cause of dirty water complaints in recent years.
“After examining the Eutaw-McShands, we’ve found that we really have a good source of water there, one that we’ll have for decades to come,” Mattox said.
In fact, Mattox had consulted Fred Brooks and Mike Faulkner, both engineers with Engineering Solutions Inc. out of Tupelo. Both men agreed that the city should continue to use the Eutaw-McShands.
“There are many well-respected experts around the state who say the aquifer is one of the best sources around,” Brooks told the board. “At some point, several years from now, you may want to look at going to surface water for your source, but this aquifer will have plenty of supply for several years to come.”
All three men also said that the cost of piping surface water into New Albany from Tupelo would be a significant increase, perhaps resulting in raised rates.
Mattox, Brooks and Faulkner also recommended against constructing a centralized water treatment facility in order to combat the manganese buildup.
“We have seven wells through which we supply the water to different areas to the city and they are spread out,” Mattox said. “If, however, we built a centralized location and brought the wells together, that would decrease our water levels and we would start to see more sand in the water. It would also be a very expensive project to undertake.”
Because of the drawbacks to these options, Mattox recommended that the city’s utility department carefully examine its current processes for cleaning the water and carefully look at a plan for replacing some pipes that cannot be sufficiently cleaned.
Currently the city’s crews periodically treat the water at each well with phospates, which help to erode some of the manganese buildup, Mattox said.
“The first thing we want to do is to thoroughly look at how we’re treating the water with phosphates,” Mattox said. “I believe everyone on our crew knows what their doing, but we just want to double check our methods. We want to make sure we are using the right amount of phosphates, because that can have an impact on how clean the water is.”
Mattox said he also wants to take a more engineered approach to flushing the lines, a task that the department conducts twice a year.
“Again, we just want to make sure we are going through the right steps when we flush the lines,” Mattox said, adding that he will be consulting with Brooks and Faulkner about this process.
In addition to these steps, Mattox said he plans to implement a third one, known as “pigging.”
“Basically, in this process, we will create two breaks in the line,” Mattox said. “We’ll have to valve off all of the surface pipes that go to houses or businesses. Then we would insert a large plug, made of porous material, into the line and use it to push out the sludge at the other break in the line. This second break would be in an area where we could logically let the sludge exit and may have to pump it out.”
Mattox said this pigging process is relatively inexpensive and is widely used in other places.
Mattox did say, though, that many of the city’s older pipes will have to be replaced instead of cleaned.
“Some of the city’s pipes are so old in some areas that they cannot be adequately cleaned,” Mattox said. “So, we’re going to do a hydraulic study, which will probably take about two to three months.”
He said that, as part of the study, his department will be trying to figure out the age and type of the city’s pipes, examine the ones that have a tremendous amount of manganese buildup, and then compare that to the areas of the city where the most complaints about dirty water are made. He said he hopes to have the results in March.