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Totally OT: What's a fair way to resolve this water leak issue?

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  • Totally OT: What's a fair way to resolve this water leak issue?

    The city recently had some road work done in front of my house. As part of the project, they were reshaping a drainage swale that crosses my property. Their heavy equipment (backhoe and trackhoe) made many trips across my front yard near the water meter and across where my water line runs.

    The city engineers had contacted me beforehand, and I agreed verbally that they could proceed with their planned work. They did a good job, and I'm pleased with the way it looks.


    Our water usage has been averaging around 4400 gallons a month for the past year or so. The first bill that came after they started working showed it had increased to 5600 gallons. The bill that came early this week showed it had gone up to 7500 gallons. That's roughly 100 gallons a day extra.

    Since the sewer charge is based on the water usage, the latest water/sewer bill was about $9 higher than our previous average. That's about 30 cents a day, which is nothing to get excited about.

    Of course, there's no visual indication of where the leak might be, but the timing suggests that it's somewhere near where they were working. I've got a shutoff valve next to the meter and another one about halfway between the meter and the house. I've isolated the leak to the part of the line that's closest to the meter, but that section is about 120 feet long. Their equipment was only working within the 30 feet closest to the meter.

    An aggravating factor is that the water line runs next to and crosses all the other utilities where they were working, so it's not a simple job to dig the line up.

    The city sent some people out, but they haven't decided what to do. They were talking about getting an audio sensor tool to try to locate the leak, but they weren't sure it would pick up a leak that small.

    I simply cannot justify either the city or me spending a lot of money on this right now. I've got much better things to do than chase down a leak that's only costing me 30 cents a day, and I'm sure they do, too.

    On the other hand, it's probably their fault, and I shouldn't have to pay an extra $9 a month.

    The thing that worries me is that they might find the leak has nothing to do with them working around the meter box, and want me to pay an enormous bill for whatever they do looking for the leak.

    What do you think I should do or ask them to do?
    Last edited by winchman; 11-18-2011, 04:31 AM.
    Any products mentioned in my posts have been endorsed by their manufacturer.

  • #2
    So thats about 100 gallons per day? Are you sure you cant locate it by putting a spade in the ground looking for water logged soil?

    Whatever, I think you need to locate the leak before you can go any further.


    • #3
      From previous experience, with the ground here so dry and the soil so permeable, you have to dig all the way down to the line to see where it's leaking. Even then you need to be within several inches of the leak (even a good-sized one) to see a difference in the soil. The water just drains down into the dry soil VERY quickly.
      Any products mentioned in my posts have been endorsed by their manufacturer.


      • #4
        If you are worried about the other utilities and damaging the pipes and lines get the city to use an Air Spade to do the final excavation.

        When I lived in Texas the city many times had me come with a big compressor and Air Spade to dig out tricky locations. Works perfect.
        Location: The Black Forest in Germany

        How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!


        • #5
          Id say the bigger problem is the leak might get bigger, Untill it snaps and you have no water in your house and its no longer $9 a month but 'I can't bath, cook, clean, or do laundry' and an emergency call costing 5x more for the work. Id get the city to do the repairs as they screwed it up. If they refuse, say you'll go to the news papers saying they broke your water line after you gave them permission to be on your property, then refused to fix it, that should make future repairs on other peoples propertys soooo much easyer to get permission for. :P
          Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.


          • #6
            What sort of distance, depth pipe size and material that it's made of ? Over here we would just get a new polyethylene pipe thrust in, had one done a year back it was only 1" poly pipe fifty feet long cost about $800.00 NZ ,but a lot cheaper than cutting up the drive. Only had a hole by the street valve about five feet long four feet wide and three feet deep the other end came up under the house. Most of the cost is in getting the gear on site they were only here three and a half hours.


            • #7
              The pipe runs a zig-zag path around some pine trees with deep tap roots and some oak trees with surface roots. The total distance is about 120 feet. A lot of it would have to be dug by hand to keep from damaging the roots. The part near the other utilities would also have to be done by hand, too.

              I've never heard of an air spade, but it sounds expensive. I doubt the city has one.

              If the leak isn't right near the meter box, I'll probably just put in a new line. I'd need to go under the other existing phone and cable runs, and over the power conduit which are near the water meter box. After that, it's just roots and whatever is buried in the yard. There are several places where I could use a trencher, which together make up about half the total distance.

              One of my neighbors spent over a thousand dollars with several different contractors just trying to locate the leak in his water line. It was finally found by a guy with a ground microphone, but he didn't fix it. I ended up doing the repair on a Friday night, so they wouldn't have to go out and turn the valve on/off in the cold. He probably would have been much better off to just replace the entire line right off the bat.
              Any products mentioned in my posts have been endorsed by their manufacturer.


              • #8
                Just curious...they didn't happen to replace the meter during this work did they?


                • #9
                  A hundred gallons a day? What are you doing, Winchman, building your own swamp?
                  No good deed goes unpunished.


                  • #10
                    In 'da alfils, when a buried leaker is to be found, a lubricator of sorts is fabricated/installed onto the pipe. Nitrogen gas is used to then displace a 'pig' which travels to the leak. As the pig travels to the leak, it pulls a small diameter nylon cord (tattletale) which has been attached and is being measured as it disappears into the lubricator. The lubricator is necessary to pack off the nitrogen gas, so's sufficient pressure can push the pig.

                    Nitrogen is always handy, but any liquid will work. Any 'tortuosity' in the pipe, or pipe ID changes, may require some thinking as to the materials, sizes, hardness of the pig. Some people prefer to refer to the pig as a rabit, or go-devil. Some people prefer to refer to the lubricator as a 'pig launcher'.

                    If a pressure recorder is handy, it can be used to indicate when the pig is at/passing the leak. Measure the volume of liquid pumped via the lubricator, then back calc using the theoretical vol/ft of the pipe.

                    When push becomes shove, increased pressure at the lubricator, will make the pig scoot along, by enlarging the leak. A 'slick line' of heavy, smooth, nylon fishing line can be used versus the nylon rope.

                    When finding a leaking collar, or split, in any long string of tubulars the above works. If hanging vertical, as in a wellbore, only nitrogen and a good pressure recorder are required, no lubricator.

                    Pipeline Pigging Products & Intervention Services Inline Services is an Innovative Pipeline Solutions provider for industries including Oil and Gas, Water Treatment, Refining, Chemical, Pharmaceutical, Food, and Beverage.  Our team of experts specialize in Pipeline Cleaning Products and Intervention Services including Hot Tapping, Line Stop (Plugging), Hot Tap



                    • #11
                      The refinery guys always referred to them as pigs, and boy, did they squeal like one too.


                      • #12
                        I know you pain,

                        The city got the great idea to move my water meter a couple years back. This upset the water gods which had been benevolently guarding a 50 year old section of galvanized pipe running into the slab.

                        I ended up digging up about 30 feet of line between the building and the meter in 110 degree weather. Finding the old broken galvanized pipe, I ran some new 1 inch PEX from the meter to the building (allowed by code here) and then another 80 something feet replumbing the entire building though the attic.

                        Digging up the pipe by hand was not easy but it was made a lot easier by the wet ground and the use of a trenching spade instead of a regular shovel.

                        Good luck with the pain of fixing water leaks between the meter and the house. I know that it is not fun but I'm sure you'll get a handle on it.


                        • #13
                          I don't see a location on your profile.. are you in a cold zone where the pipe have to be deep or not? What type of pipe?

                          I've fixed way too many water leaks. Some are easy.. others are painful.

                          First, if you are sure it's the city's problem, go to the end of the 30 feet they travelled on, dig up the pipe and cut/block it there. If the leak presists, it's in "their" zone. If you don't know where the pipe is and it's non-metalic, disconnect the meter, run a fish tape down the pipe, hook on a locator signal generator.

                          Sometimes as you feed the tape you'll "feel" a joint or bump. Measure that and dig there first. If you find it's within the 30 feet and the city won't pay, check close to the meter box and if it's not apparent, just run in the new 30 feet - often easier than locating the exact leak place. If it's not in the "city zone" and the pipe is in good condition, you don't have to replace the entire length - divide the problem into 3 or 4 (fish tape, dig, break, cap, test) and just replace the offending section. Much of this depends on your yard and whether you want to dig it up to replace the the entire length.

                          Around here many of the utilities dig with a vacuum truck - 6 inch hose that the will such up anything.. no way to damage existing utilities.

                          I'd call the city and propose a deal - they dig up the pipe at the extent of where they worked. If the fault is in their zone, they fix it, if not, it's your problem and no charge to you for the "hole". Why would they do this? It gets them off the hook quickly if it's not their problem. I'm 4 for 4 so far (their problem)
                          Last edited by lakeside53; 11-18-2011, 02:07 PM.


                          • #14
                            The air spade is not expensive. It is basically a nozzle directing the compressed air at the dirt. It blows the dirt away but doesn't harm the roots or pipes/wires. It is much faster than digging by hand and less likely to damage roots, wires and pipes than even a hand shovel. It can be a bit messy though!

                            Google the term "air spade". I am pretty sure you will get a lot of hits. I have done a lot of it especially around trees that have been planted to deeply and need the flare exposed. Also to locate circling roots if the tree was grown in a container the roots will go in a circle and then when it is transferred to the ground the roots continue to circle and will girdle the tree underground.
                            Location: The Black Forest in Germany

                            How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!


                            • #15
                              That's somewhat similar what is used here in conjuction with the big vacuum truck, except they use a pressure washer to dislodge hardpan and cut roots that need to be removed (sometimes you do...). The vac keep the mess to a minimum.