Water mains keeping city workers busy


FORT MADISON –  In the past two weeks the City of Fort Madison has experienced at least 11 water main breaks and city officials are hoping some relief valves will take the pressure of the city’s aged water lines.

Fort Madison Public Works director Larry Driscoll waded through some water rushing over the intersection of 20th Street and Avenue H Sunday at about 4 p.m. where another in the latest of water main breaks occurred. The first large break took place on Old Denmark Hill where a portion of the road had to be replaced.

Fort Madison Public Works director Larry Driscoll talks with two Fort Madison police officers Sunday afternoon at the site of another city water main break, this time at the intersection of 20th Street and Avenue H. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

There are many reasons the breaks are occurring, Driscoll said, the predominant reasons are the current rehab work that is going on top of Denmark Hill and the other is the distance from the lines to the new water treatment plant south of town.

“With that new water plant being seven miles south of town there’s increased pressure there,” Driscoll said Monday afternoon. “They wouldn’t have had to worry about this added pressure in the past because the treatment plant was in town. But now we have one of those storage tanks on Denmark Hill down and that’s making matters much worse.”

To combat the problem, city crews put a relief valve on a fire hydrant at 8th and Avenue E. Driscoll said the city has invested in a couple more of those and may use them if pressure stays high.

He said the typical pressures in the lines are from 70 to 80 pounds per square inch, or psi, but he said it’s not uncommon to see 90 or 100 with the storage tank rehabilitation project underway. He said that project will continue for at least two more months.

“That won’t be completed until September or early October, so we hope these relief valves help and we don’t continue to see these breaks,” he said. “The system’s just not used to seeing that kind of pressure.”

Crews were on the scene Monday at the intersection of 20th Street and Avenue H and had about 1/4 of the intersection dug up working on the repairs. Crews worked on the break on Old Denmark Hill and Avenue C for several days repairing the break and replacing part of the road.

Driscoll said it costs the city about $3,500 per break and that’s including in-house labor. He said the city did contract one repair out on Friday and that will probably cost the city a little more.

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