RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The city of Raleigh is trying to be proactive in fixing water main breaks before they happen, but fixing aging water lines could cost taxpayers more than $1 billion during the next decade.
A geyser in the middle of Falls of Neuse Road, and standing water bubbling out of the street along Wade and Atlantic avenues are signs of a growing problem in Raleigh — without a quick fix.
“An older pipe is like an older person,” said Raleigh senior utility analyst Ed Buchen. “They might be a little more at risk for heat exhaustion compared to someone who is 20. Likewise, if you have a pressure swing, or a pressure spike in our system an older pipe is more vulnerable to failing.”
Buchen says the city of Raleigh budgets roughly $13 million a year to fix an average of 300 breaks.
“We’re investing a lot of money replacing aged and poor conditioned sewer and water systems,” said Buchen. “That whole thing is there to minimize it. You’re never going to make it go away entirely.”
That only addresses part of the problem as corrosive soil and aging infrastructure are creating a perfect storm of sorts under the streets.
“A lot of these older pieces of infrastructure are in the downtown corridor which have a lot of neighborhoods,” said Buchen. “A lot of businesses are downtown, so when there’s an incident it impacts a lot of people.”
Buchen says the city is typically able to replace most water main breaks within a day, but the one thing they can’t buy their customers is time.
“You can’t ever get rid of all of them because if it’s a pressure issue some of it is system management,” said Buchen. “We have to get people to manage that a little bit better. We’re trying to take a proactive approach to this.”
In 2019 alone, Raleigh has seen 76 water main breaks, which in early July doesn’t seem like that many, but the majority of water main breaks occur in the winter when the ground freezes.
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