Water Distribution System Upgrades for 2013

With all the discussion about the new Flower Creek Dam construction in 2014, many of you may not be aware that the City is also undertaking about $4 million in repairs and upgrades to our water distribution system.  The bidding process could begin this month and construction could start as early as May or June.

Did you know that Libby has 38 miles of distribution pipes, some as small as 2” in diameter?  Older pipes, some over 100 years old, are constructed of steel, and newer pipe is PVC.  The main problem with the steel pipes is that they are leaking.

The City of Libby has a water loss of about 28 million gallons a month.  This is about 75% of all the water that is treated at the Water Treatment Plant.  It is estimated that 14 million gallons is lost through the old steel pipes and the other 14 million gallons is unaccounted for because of unmetered water use (for example, irrigation at the cemetery and parks or non-working residential water meters).

The City is planning to pay for the water distribution repairs through grants from Rural Development, a federal agency that assists rural communities with public works projects.  Rural Development’s position has been that our dam project might not get sufficient grant funding unless the city takes steps to correct the unusually high loss of treated water.

With the 45% grant and 55% low interest loan that the city hopes to acquire through Rural Development, the city would be borrowing about $2.2 million for the water distribution project.

Other problems exist with our aging water distribution system.   Montana Department of Environmental Quality requires a minimum normal working pressure above 35 psi (pounds per square inch) in the pipes. There are areas in West Libby, including Woodway Park, and South Libby that do not have this minimum pressure. Residents have complained for years about the low water pressure, especially at certain times of the day.

Another problem is that the city has a number of small mains ranging in size from 2” to 6”.  The minimum standard is 8”.  As a result of the low pressure in some parts of town, the small mains, and unlooped transmission mains, it is estimated that only about 20% of our fire hydrants can produce sufficient fire flows. This situation presents a health and safety issue for the residents of Libby.

Morrison- Maierile, engineers for both the dam and water distribution projects, estimated that it could cost over $14 million to repair every defect in the distribution system.  The City has chosen those which are thought to be the most crucial.

To address the water leak issue, the city hired a leak detector in 2011.  Using the data gathered, the city will replace 1600 feet of the worst, leaking water mains.

Five Pressure Reduction Valves (PRV) will be installed throughout the distribution area to increase water pressure in South Libby and West Libby.

A certain number of smaller mains will be replaced and dead ends eliminated through looping.  This will be another 2900 feet of new water mains.

There are a number of residences that do not have functioning water meters.  As a result, some residents of Libby are only paying the basic rate and not for actual water usage in the month.

The city decided to begin replacement of broken water meters with curb stop meters.  These meters will not be placed on private property but at the beginning of the private water line at the curb.  These meters can be read digitally which reduces labor for the city.  It is the long term goal for the city to ultimately replace all water meters with curb stop meters.

Residents who receive new curb stop water meters should be aware that if there are leaks in the private line between the city main and the private property, they will be responsible to pay for that lost water or to repair their service lines.

A final concern is with the raw water transmission line that feeds into the Water Treatment Plant.  Portions of the line from the lower Flower Creek diversion dam have been replaced in 1980.  The remaining portion is brittle and difficult-to-repair asbestos-cement pipe.  A major break in this transmission line would leave the city with only a 15 hour supply of water.  The asbestos-cement pipe is about 50 years old and probably near the end of its life expectancy. The replacement of 6900 feet of the raw water line will also be done this year.

The city will be notifying residents ahead of time in areas that will see road disturbance.  You can also check back here  for current information about any of the above projects.  Residents are also encouraged to contact City Hall with any questions or comments.