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Pipe repairs letting more water flow

WESSON – Town officials say they are making strides in gettingwater flowing to citizens and businesses instead of leaking intothe ground.

“We had a large amount of water leakage,” Mayor Alton Shaw saidin discussing recent improvements.

Shaw said the water had been treated and pumped but was leakingout onto the ground through old and broken lines. In June 2003, theleakage rate was 69 percent.

“It’s now down to about 26 percent,” Shaw said.

Public Works Director Mark Brown also commented on the lowerleakage rate.

“It’s come down quite a bit,” Brown said.

Shaw said town officials were pleased with the improvement butare striving for an even lower percentage.

“There’s going to be some water loss,” said Shaw, mentioningwater used for fighting fires and for wastewater treatment. “Thestate says for municipalities, 15 to 20 percent is acceptable.”

Shaw urged anyone who suspects leaks to report them.

Shaw said the town recently found and corrected a large leakfrom which an estimated a million gallons a month was being lost.He said that should help the town have to treat and pump lesswater.

“We’re hoping it’s going to go down,” Shaw said.

Mississippi Rural Water Association officials have been a greathelp in pinpointing leaks underground, Shaw said. Town crewshandled repairs once they were located.

Officials are aware of another large leak in the Old Wesson Roadarea, but equipment needed to repair it has been unavailable.

When the leakage rate was highest, Brown said the town waspumping around 11-12 million gallons a month.

“We should be a little less than nine (million gallons) now,”Brown said.

Officials also cited financial benefits, both for the town andfor customers, from repairing the leaks.

Brown said the town lost approximately $125,000 over the last 16years due to water leakage. Shaw said the town loses money inchemical costs of treating water and in electricity to pump morewater when water seeps out through leaks.

Town residents pay $14 for the first 2,000 gallons of water amonth. Water rates are about $1.50 to $2 under state average, Shawsaid.

“We’re trying to keep it that way and not have to go up,” hesaid.

Shaw said officials are working with engineers to get a grant toredo the system. The town’s last major system upgrade was in theearly 1970s.

However, Shaw said the town’s size and demographics make itdifficult to land grants that typically target low to moderateincome areas. He was hopeful a grant could be secured through aU.S. Army Corps of Engineers program.

Shaw and Brown touted other water department-relatedimprovements.

The town is in the third month of a new electronic meter readingsystem. Shaw said the system is more efficient and requires each ofthe town’s 535 meters to be read.

Previously, the process took two employees about 2.5 days toread the meters. Now, the activity can be done with one employeeover days, Shaw said.

Brown mentioned meter efforts.

“We’ve got a lot of old meters in town,” Brown said. “We’reslowly trying to change them out.”

While there is a water department fund surplus, Shaw said thetown is saving for some other system needs. One is a new pump for alift station, estimated at $40,000, next year.

The town planning to repaint a water tower. The cost isestimated at $140,000 to take off the lead-based paint, which Shawsaid is common in towns across the state, on the outside of thestructure.