Underground Price: 125 miles of pipe to care about
For most people, when they turn on the water tap or flush their toilet it is just natural to think that the water will be there to do what they need.
But that water, and the disposal system that much of it runs into, is not a fixed asset that once installed will last forever. Water pipes, sewer systems and water treatment plants need maintenance and in the long run replacement when they finally wear out.
That's the job of the Price City water and sewer department: To be sure the systems work when citizens need them.
At the Price City Council meeting on Dec. 14, Sam White, supervisor of the water and sewer department in the city, gave a report to the council on the 2011 activities of the department as well as a rundown on their present operations and what they plan to do in the future.
"I think the most immediate need we have is to rotate replacement projects one piece at a time so we can keep the systems going," stated White when asked by the council what needs his department had. "For the long term we need to keep doing the mapping program of the system and a long term maintenance program so we are ready when development in the city comes."
White pointed out that the present crew at the city, which consists of 10 people, including the supervisors, take care of 25 miles of water transmission lines, 50 miles of distribution lines, and 50 miles of gravity type sewer mains. The department is also responsible for 3,360 water meters, 480 fire hydrants and for running the water treatment plant in Price Canyon which produces 1,600 gallons per minute in the summer when water needs are the highest. The department also oversees the maintenance and operation of two water tanks, a 10 million gallon concrete tank and a three million gallon steel tank.
Between 2009 and 2010 the city had contractors replace waste water pipes in 21 locations. Some lines were replaced because they were undersized, others had problems with grease clogs and a history of back-ups. While most of those showed some deterioration, a clay-tile line at 200 North and Carbon Avenue was in particularly bad shape.
"There is a lot of residential lines that have old orangeburg pipe from the 1960s and '70s that need to be replaced," said White.
While his crew did not replace these lines, they did monitor and work with contractors on the projects that totaled 9,350 linear feet or 3.5 percent of Price's sewer main pipelines.
The personnel at the department perform various kinds of projects to keep the city systems running. The construction crew takes care of digging up leaking or broken lines and repairing them, handles manhole installations, and takes care of the water pressure operation in the city.
The maintenance crew performs the sewer line cleaning and also uses the TV system the city has to inspect pipes from the inside.
The water treatment plant crew provides spring water for the city (from Colton Springs) and seasonal 24 hour water treatment from the Price River. They also do plant maintenance, repairs and upgrades as needed.
The crew also handles dozens of other duties related to the systems, including one of the hardest problems to handle, especially when things go wrong, customer service.
"I have heard a lot of good things about how your crew has handled problems customers have," said Councilwoman Kathy Smith. "They have handled some hard issues well."
Most of those that work in the department have various kinds of certifications for the different kinds of skills they have had to learn over the years while performing the tasks handed to them. The department is not monolithic because they have to handle everything from traffic control to handling large equipment to water conservation procedures.
White pointed out may bright spots in the department, but there was one he is obviously very proud of.
As of the day of his presentation, the department hand not had one reportable injury in 1001 days.
"That's quite a feat when you think about the kind of work they do," said John Daniels, human resource manager for the city later in an interview. "They have to contend with lots of hazards such as trenching, heavy equipment, etc."
White also presented a map of the construction projects he talked about having done the last two years to the council. The longest string of units was on 700 East stretching from 500 South to Main Street.