Please note: There is a slight disparity between today's print and online editions. Due to an editing error, the following sentences are incorrect in the print edition. "Turner said the town was draining water off the main tank on Aug. 2 and had opened a hydrant at the high school to help get the water out. A county employee, Turner said, saw the opened hydrant and assumed it should be closed." (The words "town" and "county" are switched in print.) We apologize for any confusion.
Water spilled out onto East Main Street in Floyd on Saturday, Aug. 3, as the town dealt with its second line break of the summer.
A break in June on the same road had necessitated a boil advisory.
Town Council member Bruce Turner, who serves as chair of the Public Service Authority, suspects the most recent water main break was caused by water pressure building up in “an aging system” that couldn’t handle the strain.
Turner said the town was draining water off the main tank on Aug. 2 and had opened a hydrant at the high school to help get the water out. A county employee, Turner said, saw the opened hydrant and assumed it should be closed.
“When they closed it … it put that pressure back on the system and caused the issue that we had,” Turner explained.
Ultimately, however, continued issues with the water lines in Floyd can be attributed to the pipes themselves, Turner said.
“We’ve got an aging system that’s been in place for several years,” he said. “We’ve started updating some of the system but we’ve had numerous breaks … all of it’s just an aging system.”
The Aug. 3 break was repaired relatively quickly—according to Turner, the hydrant was likely closed around 2 a.m. on Saturday.
Businesses on East Main Street began noticing a lack of water service around 9 a.m., judging by several Facebook posts made by Cocoa Mia, Circle K EZ Stop and Skyline National Bank. Other businesses also reportedly lost water for a period of time.
The break was repaired by around 2 p.m. and water was restored to customers soon after.
According to Town Manager Kayla Cox, town residents can sign up online for the Floyd County Citizen Alert notification system, which will provide participants with critical information in the event of severe weather, unexpected road closures, missing persons, building evacuations and the like.
Cox said a notification was sent following the water main break on Aug. 2. In some cases, though, notifications are only sent to a certain “radius” of affected residents.
The normal response procedure for a water main break is “whomever’s on call would come out and see what the problem is, and try to start shutting valves off to try to contain [the break] to a specific area, so it doesn’t affect the whole town,” Turner said.
That might not always work, though, Turner said.
“The valves are getting kind of old too, so some may or may not be working.”
A Public Service Authority employee said compared to the magnitude of repairs that the water system likely needs, the budget of the authority is “very small.”
The authority is funded primarily from payment of water and sewer bills. The system, though, “only has like 400-500 customers,” Turner said.
Meanwhile estimates to repair the ailing water system are in the millions. Turner said the authority’s board of directors is exploring other potential revenue streams.
“We’re looking at grants that we might be able to apply for that would kind of help do some of the replacement stuff through the town,” Turner said.
He said the authority might work with the town or county to come up with matching funds or other ways “to offset some of the costs.”
The authority operates independently; however, there are Town Council members and county Supervisors on the panel.
The authority is currently exploring grants for which it may qualify, from entities such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Authority or the health department, Turner said.
It’s a balancing act for the authority to determine on what to spend money and when, Turner explained.
“We have to determine whether or not we can come up with funds to do [the replacement] all at one time or if we have to do it in cycles.”
While attempting to supplement its funding with a combination of grants and loans, the authority also has “to make sure that we’re able to keep our operating budget without cutting into that … and we have to keep a certain amount of money on-hand” to pay back existing loans, Turner said.
Long term, the authority hopes to expand its customer base.
“We’re working on a 10-year plan” to extend services past town limits.
“It’s going to take time,” Turner said.