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Working For You: Why Bloomington saw frequent water main breaks this past winter

Crews work t repair and replace water main pipes in Bloomington
Posted at 11:00 AM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 14:31:06-04

BLOOMINGTON — Pipes bursting, water flowing into city streets, and boil advisories seem to be common sights in the City of Bloomington.

WRTV dug into the data provided by the city and learned February 2021 was a busy month for crews repairing water mains.

In February alone, Bloomington repaired 18 burst water mains. That is the most in one month since at least 2013.

Water main breaks happen more frequently in the winter months due to the temperatures, but city officials tell us one day a computer error led to 5 breaks in one day.

"We did have one day where the system wasn't updating the screen properly at the water plant and an operator appears to have turned, had a pump running and but it didn't show up on the screen, and started another pump which can cause something called water hammering where you get spikes of really high pressure," said Vic Kelson, the Director of Utilities for the City of Bloomington.

Kelson provided us with even more data on another contributing factor to the water main situation in Bloomington. The city is home to around 420 miles of water pipe with seven storage tanks, seven booster stations, and one water treatment plant that takes water from Lake Monroe, makes it drinkable, and then sends it to the tap.

Just like plumbing in our home ages and needs maintenance and replacement, the pipes under of feet corrode and leak as well over time.

Kelson said the utility company worked to replace aging pipe for three years, starting in 2017, but dollars are not keeping up with the demand.

He said their replacement cycle right now within their current budget is a little over 200 years, but the service life of the water pipe is around 100 years.

So that is why the utility company is looking to make rate hikes to make up the difference.

"We are in the midst of a water rate case here in Bloomington that's going to the IURC in a couple of weeks," Kelson said. "We started replacing mains in 2013, and realized after three years of that the amount we have allocated for that is enough for about two miles per year."

The increase would be about 22%, but a little less for residential customers.

In terms of your water bill, Kelson said they hope to do the rate hikes in two phases, 2022 and 2024. A residential monthly bill would likely see a $3 to $4 increase.

For now, you can stay up to date on the latest with the water rate case and get alerts about boil advisories and orders in your neighborhood in Bloomington by going to their website. You can also sign up for their alert system.

RELATED | City of Bloomington Utilities proposes water rate increase


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