City officials on Friday took a reassuring tone when discussing the status of efforts to protect Wichita’s water supply and quality.
“The leak is not affecting our ability to deliver water or the water quality,” said Alan King, the city’s director of public works and utilities.
While residents are not being asked to reduce water usage in response to the leak in a main pipe that connects the Equus Beds Aquifer and Cheney Reservoir to Wichita’s water treatment plant, King said, officials are working to address the problem as rapidly as possible.
“We’re taking it seriously because the consequences are so high,” he said.
A bypass line to a part of the plant that is not used during the winter because of reduced demand is being activated, King said. Engineers worked through the night to complete design work on a second bypass, which officials hope to have completed by the end of the weekend.
“Depending on the availability of parts, it could push it into sometime next week,” King said.
The leak is not compromising water quality or availability because pressure is pushing the water out rather than allowing contamination to come into the line, he said.
Once both bypass pipes are operating, crews will excavate the 66-inch pipe near the site of the leak – portions of which date back to the 1940s – to identify and repair the problem. About two gallons are leaking out every minute, King said.
If the main pipe ruptures before the second bypass is completed, he said, residents may be asked to reduce water usage at peak periods in the morning and evening.
“That remains a remote possibility,” King said.
Typically at this time of year, Wichita residents use 40 million to 50 million gallons a day. The first bypass can carry about 30 million gallons a day, he said.
Officials don’t know whether the leak is the result of a crack in some segment of the pipe or a problem at a joint or seam.
The leak is in a pipe targeted for repairs or replacement as part of the increased water and sewer rates that took effect at the start of the year. Checking the condition of that line is one requirement set by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment after a leaky valve at the city’s main sewage treatment plant allowed contaminated water to flow into the Arkansas River in May 2012.
The water main wasn’t the culprit in the leaky-valve issue. But the city agreed to check that main’s condition as part of a negotiated settlement.