Public Works Director Cesario Vela said last month that the city is purchasing a $50,000 tool that will allow water department crews to install special valves that will allow work on water lines to be done without turning off water service to customers.
The device allows city water crews to install an EZ Valve system in water lines where leaks might occur. The equipment will allow valves to shut off automatically, preventing the loss of water that drained Beeville’s storage tanks late last year.
“I think that every city that has an old system should have these,” Vela said as he watched city employees learn to use the new equipment at a location on North Avenue E.
Installation experts from McCain Waterworks Marketing of San Antonio were on hand to show the local workers how to operate the machine.
Owner Jim McCain said his company has acquired the exclusive rights from Advanced Valve Technology to sell and service the system in the Texas market. The company has staff in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.
Vela said that by purchasing the installation equipment, Beeville will be able to install the same systems into aging water lines in neighboring cities. That way the equipment will pay for itself.
“This sure beats the old method,” McCain said while working on the water system in Austin recently. Using the old method of repairing a leaky water line required what McCain called “line stopping,” or cutting off the flow of water in two locations. Sometimes it required stopping the water in three locations. That involved up to three excavations, traffic control around the excavations, restraining the pipe that was stopped, then backfilling the hole and patching the road surface.
All that work could easily become expensive for the city that had to undertake the project.
The EZ Valve is a seated or rubber seated “gate valve” that allows for installing a reusable valve that can be installed on any type of water line. That includes lines made of ductile iron, cast iron or PVC pipe and on line sizes ranging from four to 12 inches.
Because of the simplicity of the system, water line stoppages can be reduced to a minimum while work crews will no longer be faced with having to work long hours in cold or hot weather.
Also, more water can be conserved during water line problems. Labor costs can be reduced; customer complaints over water service outages will be reduced; the city will not have to issue “boil water” notices; lines will no longer have to be drained or recharged; no chlorine testing will be required, and no specialized scheduling will have to be made for extensive repairs.
To install one of the valves, a work crew uses the installation equipment by connecting it around a water line. Then the equipment can be used to cut a 1 5/8ths of an inch, 120-degree cut on top of the pipe.
Shavings created by cutting the notch in the top of the pipe are flushed out the side of the cutting machine through a discharge tube. They do not go into the line and contaminate the water.
The cutting assembly is removed and a bonnet is installed and left in place, or it can be removed and used elsewhere. A cover plate is installed to keep the water line sealed until such time that a valve bonnet needs to be installed again.
All the while, the pressure and the flow of water through the line is never interrupted.
Vela said the city plans to leave the new valves in place, eventually replacing what could be hundreds of old valves.
The new equipment will allow city repair crews to perform repairs without interrupting water service to anyone, and the crews will be able to avoid turning off numerous valves that often are located a substantial distance from the leak.
“Sometimes, we’ve turned off 10 valves,” Vela said, explaining the difficulties of making the repairs now.
The new system will also prevent a leak from running, sometimes for days.
“We pay for that water,” Vela said. “And it’s already treated.”
Repair crews are installing the new valves now whenever they need to make a repair on an old valve or a water line.
Recently, the city bought six of the valves for six-inch water mains at a cost of $16,500. That comes out to $2,750 for each valve. But the new valves will save the city a great deal of money in the future.
Vela said most of the water lines in the city are six inches in diameter. But the city plans to replace the valves in the larger, 10-inch and 12-inch lines as needed.
One of the 10-inch valves sells for $4,650 and a 12-inch valve costs $5,900.
Vela said replacing all the city’s old shutoff valves will take years to accomplish. But in the long run, the project will prevent significant water service outages and save considerable money.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.