Kremmling water system ‘in crisis’ |

Kremmling water system ‘in crisis’

by Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

A significant portion of the town of Kremmling’s water distribution system is in trouble and will have to be replaced in the next few years.

That was the message delivered at the town council meeting last Wednesday. Public Works Director Doug Moses gave the trustees a brief but vivid description of the town’s water system problems.

“We really are in crisis in our distribution system,” he said.

Moses said his department became fully aware of the extent of the town’s problem last year when the Kremmling Fire Department complained of a “decreased flow in the amount of pressure and volume of water coming out of the town’s fire hydrants.”

The Public Works Department looked into the problem and discovered that the town’s steel water pipe system is beginning to fail. Steel water pipes comprise about 30 percent of the water system.

Moses explained the steel water pipes have become “tuberculated,” which is a combination of corrosion and mineral deposits that cause hardened clumps of material to form within the pipes. These tuberculated clumps have cut down the flow of water through the pipes.

If the pipes were still strong enough, Moses said a mechanical “pig” could be used to clear them, but the level of corrosion has weakened the pipes to such an extent that many of them would fall apart if it were used.

Moses said they are not only partially blocked by tuberculation, but the eighth-inch thick steel pipes are also heavy corroded. The corrosion is so extensive that he estimates that from November to April the steel pipes have leaked 60-percent of all the water flowing through them.

“The only thing really holding these steel pipes together is the tuberculation and the dirt surrounding the outside of the pipes,” he said.

To show the extent of the corrosion, Moses put on a dramatic demonstration. He showed the trustees a 3-foot section of steel pipe that had been “in service” until just the previous week.

Placing a flashlight inside the 4-inch diameter pipe and covering the ends of the pipe, Moses switched off the meeting room’s lights. As he rotated the pipe, the trustees could see light shining through dozens of holes ranging from the size of pinheads to about half an inch in width that peppered its circumference.

Moses described that 3-foot section of pipe as “typical” of all of the steel water pipes within the town’s limits.

Commenting on what they had seen, Mayor Tom Clark said Moses’s demonstration of the problem was a “picture that was worth a thousand words.”

The town has about 24,000 feet of steel water pipe. Of this total, over 11,600 feet is 6-inch diameter while more than 12,300 feet is 4-inch. The steel pipes were reportedly installed in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

Moses jokingly referred to the more than a half-century-old pipe as “one step up from wooden mains.” He said its “caulk-and-lead joints” are such an antiquated type that he hadn’t seen anything like it since he attended classes years ago as a student.

While spot repairs can be done as needed, Moses said all of steel pipe inside the town’s water system is badly tuberculated and corroded, and must eventually be replaced. He explained the work could be done in sections over the next few years.

Kremmling’s town council and Public Works Department have been aware of the town’s growing water problems for years. They began taking action to correct them about three years ago with the construction a water pumping plant on the Colorado River near the mouth of Gore Canyon to augment the town’s existing water supply.

In addition, a main water line within the town was replaced a year ago. Also over this past summer, a 1,500-foot section of the main transmission line from the water plant located west of town was replaced.

While a significant portion of the water system still needs to be replaced, Town Manager Ted Soltis expressed confidence that allocations within the town’s budget, financing and other revenue sources can be found to do the work.

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