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Water and Light not seeking reimbursement for Forum repairs

Columbia Water and Light has identified the source of a water leak on Forum Boulevard.

The water line is owned by MFA Oil and sits under the Break Time gas station on Forum Boulevard, near the Forum Shopping Center.

Water and Light found the leak after Columbia Public Works went to repair a pothole. Crews reported the pothole kept filling with water, which prompted Water and Light to dig to find the source.

Crews had difficulty finding where the water was coming from, whether it be groundwater or a leaking pipe.

“That actually proved to be extremely challenging,” Ryan Williams, assistant director of Water and Light said.

Williams said crews can test water and if it tests positive for chlorine, they know it is city water.

“In instances such as this, when the leak was kind of farther away, the chlorine dissipated as it traveled through the ground,” he said.

Crews also had issues because the tools they use to “listen” for leaks did not work with the polyvinal chloride, or PVC, pipes.

“We had to do it kind of the old fashion way, is dig a little bit up here. ‘Is there still water coming? No. Alright.’ Dig a little bit back here. ‘Is there still water coming? Well, yes’,” Williams said.

The project to repair the potholes on Forum Boulevard between Forum Katy Parkway and Mills Drive started March 14. One lane in the area has been closed since that time.

Although city crews spent over a week digging to find the source of the water, Water and Light will not be seeking payment from MFA Oil for the money spent finding where the water was coming from. That is not uncommon.

“In instances like this, you know, where the customer would’ve been completely unaware that they had a leak. We were uncertain whether or not it was city water or an actual water leak,” he said. “You know, and the customer is going to be very prompt in making their repairs now that they know that they’re the responsible party.”

Williams said there was no way for MFA Oil to know it was their leak. He said if Public Works had not gone to repair potholes on the road, it may have never been detected at all.

“This is part of the customer service that we end up providing,” he said.

“We do have several instances that occur on an annual basis. Maybe not as high profile as being in the middle of Forum Boulevard,” he said.

Williams said around 10 percent of the water used in the city each year is unaccounted for, and that number is about average. That water is used during things like water main breaks, firefighting efforts, or water line leaks because that water does not get metered. The city does not budget for these types of instances.

“It’s incorporated within the rates that all customers pay,” he said.

Public Works and Water and Light did not know the cost of the work put into finding the source of the leak.

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