Wahkiakum PUD is trying to take care of the leaks affecting its two water systems.
Water department personnel Jim Jespersen, Bruce McClain and Doug Condon showed the Board of Commissioners sections of the damaged lines they had replaced on Puget Island and Altoona and Shannon Roads at the meeting Tuesday morning.
“Shannon Road is one of our biggest culprits for leaking,” said McClain. “I believe it was the quality of pipe that was used. Most of our leaks are right where the glue joints are. If you look at what is put in now and what was put in then, there is quite a bit of difference in thickness.”
General Manager Dave Tramblie concurred and admitted that Shannon Road was a priority.
Commissioner Dennis Reid was pleased that the January reports showed that the water systems on Puget Island and the Westend were as low as they had ever been as far as leak percentage.
“You know what that means? We’ve been working hard,” said Condon. “We’ve been wet a lot.”
Bypass meters have made it easier for the department to locate leaks. Condon asked the board and Tramblie if they would consider purchasing more.
Commissioner Robert Jungers wondered if switching to HDPE pipe would be a good option.
“I haven’t done all the research to determine if it’s viable cost wise,” Tramblie said. “We’d need to learn how to do thermal welding and about connectors. I’d need to compare it to what we are using now.”
“The pipe itself is just bulletproof,” said Jungers.
David Blalock of Smoky Waters Communications made a second appearance before the board to acquaint them with the equipment Smoky Waters Communications hoped to use to provide internet service to the county.
“I want to know how much appetite there is out there for this,” Commissioner Gene Healy said. “What speed do people have now? What would they like?”
In order to answer those questions, the board decided to work with the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce to draw up a survey for residents.
“If we do capitalize a project like that,” Jungers said, “it will be on the back of the electrical system. We’re not likely to get a grant for it in this economic climate and the near term results will be an increase to our electric rates to cover the debt service for the new capitalization. It’s not just a matter of ‘it’s a great idea, let’s do it’. It has to be paid for.”
In the meantime, one of the PUD administrators has been tasked with drafting a letter of intent to the Connect America Fund, which will make them eligible for a share of potential funding for this kind of project.
According to Auditor Erin Wilson, the Residential Energy Assistance Fund currently has $103 available. To date this year, they have had $742 in donations and provided $972 in assistance.
Tramblie reported that corrosion has been building up in pipes in two reservoirs in the county.
“We’re going to have be cutting a hole in the concrete reservoir itself and we don’t have any experience with that,” Tramblie said. I think it would be in our best interest to have Gray and Osborne engineering services provide a design detail and give us the documents we would need to go out to bid for a project like that. The problem is that it is about $5,250 for that information.”
“We are anticipating or fearing that the project will be 15,000,” added Jungers.
“For each,” said Tramblie. “We could put it off, but it’s just getting worse.”
The group will continue to discuss this issue at the next meeting.
Tramblie recently attended a Wahkiakum County Commission meeting to ask if they would consider working on the western Wahkiakum water system extension with the PUD, in order to provide water to the residents west of the Deep River along the highway.
“I received a favorable response,” he said. “I also contacted WSDOT and they will have issues related to cultural reviews, environmental concerns, safety issues. Rock, culverts, existing fiber cable will all be issues we will have to work around.”
Reid shared that he had heard that there were concerns about possible unwanted expansion in the Deep River area.
“One of the complaints that I’ve heard,” Healy said, “is that they don’t have decent water currently and it would seem to me potential growth or not, that needs to be addressed and we are probably the party to do that. Everybody is entitled to good water. We are the purveyor of water down there and should probably exhaust ourselves looking at the issue.”
Commissioners approved travel to WPUDA meetings for Wilson and Healey.
The next meeting is scheduled for March 18 at 8:30 a.m. in the PUD meeting room.