By Reggie Ellis

Eleven months, 45 fire hydrants, 40,000 feet of water lines and $3 million are all it took to complete Exeter's largest public works project.

Mike Adams, general manager for Rising Sun Company, said the upgrade of the city's aging water system is "99.9 percent complete," with a few additions, paving and testing the only items left on the citywide project.

"It went really smoothly for such a complex and invasive project," Adams said. "That's really the best you can hope for with such a large project."

Throughout the project there were very few complaints from the general public about interrupted water service. There were few incidents with broken water valves, burst water pipes and a punctured gas line. For the most part no one has gone an extended period of time without any of their utilities. When possible, residents were notified 24 hours in advance if their water was going to be shut off. New valves were also added to allow the city to shut off specific lines and avoid shutting off entire city blocks.

"No one went through the night without water," Adams said. "We made that a priority."

Rising Sun used an underground drilling method to avoid digging trenches to connect individual meters to the new main lines. A 2-by-2 foot hole was made in the street and another 2-by-2 foot hole where the meter was relocated from the back yard to the front yard. Some residents voiced concerns that the holes will be left in their yards, but Rising Sun has committed to try to restore yards as close to their original state as possible.

In fact, one of the project's effects didn't have anything to do with water. Dust was the primary complaint from residents. The project is being funded by a $3 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Agency to upgrade the width of city lines from four inches to six or eight inches and to modernize the water system. The larger lines are needed to meet the City of Exeter's future water volume demands.

Adams said doubling the width of the line, from 4 to 8 inches, would quadruple the volume and maintain water pressure. Many of the dilapidated water lines were more than 30 years old, with some predating World War II.

"Some of them broke as soon as we uncovered them," Adams said. "Some pipes looked OK but were just too small, so they had to be replaced."

The project also repaved 25 alleyways, a shared cost between Rising Sun and the city, and added a water well in the Citrus Crest subdivision.

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