Exeter sees more water from valve evaluation

City staff reports there were over 100 valves found that were not previously recorded, opening closed valves leads to more water supply

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

EXETER – Exeter is finally putting to rest their extended exercise of water valves. 

Typically, it would be a mundane agenda item, but considering Exeter’s recent water issues, a run of the mill evaluation lent important intel. 

Exeter city staff reviewed the findings of their water valve exercise at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Ultimately, things are not as bad as everyone had thought. Between when they hired Wachs Water Services, and when the project was over, Exeter found out they had an additional 104 valves than they thought.

“We know for certain those valves have issues,” Exeter public works director Daymon Qualls said.

Wachs Water Services were hired for a 20 work day contract, but after the first few days it was apparent they would have to extend the work order. In addition to opening valves that were previously closed, sometimes for 10 years or more, they also updated the map of valves with global positioning system pinpoint data. 

At the beginning of the project, Wachs Water Services identified that about half of all the City’s known valves were initially unusable, and denoted by a red dot on a city map. Fortunately, that left about half that were initially usable and denoted by a blue dot on the same map. After they surveyed the valves, they noted that only 60 out of the 995 total valves were unusable. Meanwhile 54 are left without any review at all. Wachs Water Services reports that 36 were behind a fence, 15 did not turn and there were 3 where there was no valve present. 

“Even in new areas there were red dots which tells you that these things don’t have to get to decades years old…that’s why you should exercise valves every 3-5 years,” city manager Adam Ennis said.

Out of the inoperable valves, 32 could not be located, four needed debris removed, one was misaligned, five were covered over, one was frozen, five had a stuck lid, eight were missing or had a damaged operator, one had a bent stem and three spun freely. The valves that are inaccessible that need to be opened are simply a matter of jurisdiction. Qualls said that the ones on highway 65, Kaweah Ave, would take time because of traffic concerns and they would need to consult with CalTrans.

In the meantime the City will investigate the few valves that are currently leaking on streets around the city first.

“There is a lot of logistical work that has to be done before we open that roadway and do the repair,” Qualls said.

Exeter plans to regularly check on valve every three to five years a matter of regular maintenance. Ennis and Qualls said in recent meetings and at Tuesday’s meeting that it is important to have the ability to have control over valves in the case of a water main break. Residents are keenly aware of the distress that is caused when the City needs to shut down the water system for emergency repairs.

The ones in recent memory are from 2016 and 2018 when Edison augured through a main on Belmont that shut down the system for almost a full day, and then when emergency repairs needed to be made on main under highway 65. Because water ran through nearly the entire town, a break in a major line effected every block.

“[Valves] are designed in such a way so that you can shot down blocks of area,” Qualls said.

Councilmembers asked how so many valves were turned off in the first place. Ennis said that work crews would have to turn off several valves to isolate the area they need to work on. Once the work was done they would not reopen the valves they turned off. Ennis estimated that there were 30 to 50 valves that were closed by should have been left open.

As a result of opening closed valves the City has seen an increase in their water supply. According to Ennis the City has seen an additional 400 gallons per minute. The news is welcoming to Council and staff as they learned last month that the City is in need of an additional 1,100 gallons per minute to meet state water standards.

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