FORT WAYNE — Residents in southwest Fort Wayne could notice crews listening to their fire hydrants next week.
They aren’t checking for some new hip aqua beat. In fact they are just looking for leaks in water pipes.
The Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved a $41,285.25 contract with M.E. Simpson to inspect 311 miles of water lines for City Utilities. Ben Groeneweg, utility program manager for asset management and sustainability, said the crews will listen to pipes in the area through hydrants and valves to detect leaks.
The system, which includes using devices to listen to sounds within the pipes, can detect a leak within 7 feet, Groeneweg said.
Last year, a similar contract found 23 leaks that were losing 48,000 gallons of water annually. In 2010, the contractor found 34 leaks losing 262,000 gallons of water a year.
Of the 10.7 billion gallons of water produced at the city’s water plant last year, 23 percent was never sold to a customer. Some of this unsold water is used to flush fire hydrants or water lines, fight fires or clean sewers. But the vast majority – city officials estimate it is 15 percent of total water produced – leaks into the ground.
This means the city produced 1.6 billion gallons of water last year that served no purpose other than to make area soils a little wetter. It costs the city about $550,000 to produce that lost water.
This year’s project will examine pipes generally south of Washington Center Road and west of the St. Joe and St. Marys rivers. It will not include looking at pipes in the Aqua Indiana service area.
Mary Jane Slaton, utility spokeswoman, said finding leaks allows the city to fix them when necessary and plan for replacements when possible.
She said larger leaks are typically fixed by crews’ digging a hole and placing a pipe and clamp over the leak. This work is done by city staff.
Unlike water main breaks, which must be repaired immediately, leaks can be repaired at times most beneficial to the city so as not to disrupt traffic and residents.
Smaller leaks can help the city prioritize where it will replace water mains in future projects, Slaton said.
Groeneweg said the program helps the city make important fixes before leaks become large, and expensive, problems.
The city will complete tests of the entire water system next year and after that will begin planning its next four-year cycle, he said.
Crews for this contract will begin working Monday in two-person teams. They will not be asking for access into homes, but some of the work might be done during evening hours when there is lower traffic and less ambient sound.