Major well breaks down in Mt. Pleasant
MT. PLEASANT (GTNS) – A breakdown in the major well supplying water to Mt. Pleasant could cost Mt. Pleasant Municipal Utilities close to $150,000 in repairs.
However, Jack Hedgecock, MPMU general manager, feels lucky.
“We were lucky. It could have been much worse,” Hedgecock said referring to the incident on Jan. 25 when a column pipe in the well shaft of the 1,907-foot well detached from the well pump.
Hedgecock based his statement on the timing of the event. “If it would have happened during the summer, it would have much worse because people use more water outdoors in the summer and our system water demand is much higher.”
Nonetheless, MPMU did urge Mt. Pleasant residents to conserve following the break in the column pipe. The city, though, was never in danger of running out of water resources, he said.
“The city still had adequate water supply, but we didn’t have any for extras [i.e. fires or water main breaks],” he said.
Commonly called Oakland Mills well No. 6, the well is located east of Oakland Mills and was drilled in 1997. It is one of two city wells, the other located on Adams Street near the MPMU office. Both wells are used for daily water production. Well No. 6 is the city’s primary well with the other well serving as a secondary source.
Mt. Pleasant also sells water, water from well No. 6, to the Rathbun Regional Water Association. Rathbun provides water to a number of communities in southern Iowa.
Hedgecock theorizes that mechanical failure of a threaded coupling may have been a factor in the incident. “One of the shaft pieces [there are 35 pieces of column pipe traveling down through the well casing the threads] actually pulled out from the threaded coupler located between two of the pipe joints.”
The problem was detected on the afternoon of Jan. 25 by an MPMU worker. Northway Well & Pump, a large well-repair business, was contacted and dispatched workers.
Because it was not known where the breakage occurred, Northway and city employees had to manually remove each piece of column pipe until the problem was found. As luck would have it, the breakage was on the second to last piece of the 35-piece column.
A temporary six-inch submersible pump and column were reinstalled on Jan. 26.
“We had to drop everything down piece by piece,” Hedgecock said. “It was a fairly precarious operation and I thought it might take all night. Overall, the project went as well as could be expected.”
By 10:30 p.m. that day, the temporary pump was producing water. Under the temporary configurations, the well can produce up to 1,200 gallons of raw water a minute or approximately 800,000 gallons of finished water per day. This represents roughly one-half of the daily production for the well in its normal configuration.
“We had all the towers and surface tanks filled by [Jan. 27] and had water to Rathbun Monday morning,” Hedgecock said. “It could not have come out better. We were really pleased.”
The general manager said around 15-17 employees (both from MPMU and Northway) worked on the repairs. He also noted that the well and column pipe had been inspected and replaced in 2012 as part of a routine periodic maintenance project.
Repair bills will be paid for through a MPMU contingency fund, Hedgecock said.
“We have a contingency fund and won’t need to borrow any money [to fund repairs].” MPMU also filed an insurance claim on the breakdown.
Currently, the well has been repaired temporarily, but the permanent parts have already arrived and final repairs will begin when the final machining work is completed on the parts.
“Within two weeks, weather permitting, we should have it back in production 100 percent. That is easily achievable.”
Finally, Hedgecock said he appreciates his staff’s effort and the understanding of Mt. Pleasant residents.
“We have a great staff. Our staff is trained for this. We have a bit of road ahead of us, but we have to get it [the well] back into service as soon as possible. If this had to happen, it was a good time for it to happen due to the lower water demand in the winter season. We also appreciate the customers’ understanding and patience during this.”