OAKLAND COUNTY (WWJ) — It could still be days before things return to normal for people impacted by a major water main break — and boil water alert — in 12 Oakland County communities.
The Great Lakes Water Authority announced on Tuesday that they have isolated the leak in the 48-inch transmission main that serves customers in the western portions of Oakland County. This leak was responsible for the mandatory boil water advisory.
With the leak being isolated, the repairs will begin and pressure is starting to be restored in other system areas. The next step is waiting for the replacement pipe to be delivered.
“Our current focus is on the customers with no water,” a press release from the Great Lakes Water Authority read. “In order to address the low-to-no water pressure in these communities, the Authority is focusing on re-pressurizing the system. We will continue to provide you with developments as the situation progresses.”
With there still so much in the air, the Great Lakes Water Authority has also released a list of frequently asked questions. Below is the complete list of those questions and answers.
1. What specifically caused the water main break?
GLWA is currently still investigating the situation, and our focus right now is on the immediate, efficient restoration and repair of service to the affected areas.
2. How old is the 48-inch diameter water transmission pipe?
The water transmission pipe that was damaged was installed in 1970, making it 47 years old. This pipe is currently in the middle of its service life.
3. When was the last time the pipe was maintained?
Generally, a pipe of this kind (pressurize and underground) does not need maintenance, although valves along the pipe may be opened and closed to ensure isolation. However, there are relatively new inspection methods in place for this type of water transmission pipe that can be used while in service. GLWA is currently evaluating a full condition assessment for all of its transmission mains.
4. When was the last time the pipe was repaired?
This is the first time this pipe will have needed repair, as there have been no prior breaks or issues with this water transmission pipe.
5. When was the last time a break of this magnitude occurred, affecting so many communities?
To our knowledge, we have not had a water main break that has affected such a large population this significantly. There have been other breaks, but GLWA has been able to reroute water in the system due to existing redundancies that helps minimize the impact.
6. Were there water pressure issues before the break?
GLWA records do not indicate any water pressure issues prior to this situation based on reports from GLWA pressure monitoring locations in the area.
7. What are the plans to maintain the water main going forward?
The full condition assessment will provide GLWA with information on the exact preventative maintenance opportunities that are available. The team is currently reviewing this and will provide more information as it becomes available.
8. What is the main concern going forward?
The condition assessment will provide proactive opportunities that GLWA will have for preventative maintenance and will assist in establishing redundancies in the system for the area. This follows our Water Master Plan. Through discussions with GLWA customer communities, we have selected a project approach and are planning for it in our Capital Improvement Plan. We are actively searching for ways to expedite the schedule of this plan.
9. Is there redundancy built into the system to reroute the flow of water?
Currently, GLWA redundancy exists through interconnections between communities, water storage tanks in certain communities, as well as back-up well water systems in select areas. GLWA has been defining ways to establish redundancies within its system overall. We have selected a project approach and are planning for it in our Capital Improvement Plan. GLWA has plans to expedite this approach.
10. Is this going to require a new main to be built around the break?
The water transmission pipe is installed in 20-foot sections. GLWA will remove the section(s) that are damaged and replace with new pipe.
11. What is the protocol for when a break this large occurs? Do you bring in extra crews/contractors?
Due to the nature of the system, GLWA maintains a contract to assist with emergency repairs. We have identified and deployed additional resources to assist. GLWA crews are on-site to respond and handle site control with assistance from the local community, where appropriate, including isolation of the break, rerouting water as valves are closed, and communication with affected communities for opening interconnects. Additionally, GLWA works to ensure that the public is appropriately notified.
12. How many people / businesses have been affected by this break? How many are under the boil water advisory? How many have no water?
According to Oakland County, there are 304,970 Oakland County residents that have been impacted. At this moment, there are 51,380 residents currently without water.