MWA will adjust bills after leak repairs

lfabian@macon.comJanuary 15, 2014 

  • Winterizing to protect pipes

    • Insulate exposed pipes with wraps or tapes.
    • Add insulation to water heaters.
    • Drain irrigation systems completely.
    • Disconnect garden hoses from outdoor faucets/spigots/hose bibs.
    • Shut off the valve and drain the lines on faucets that are not frost free.
    • Winterize the air conditioner by draining all its pipes and hoses.
    • Remove window air conditioning units and insulate those areas.
    • Clean gutters, so winter rains and melting snow can drain.
    • Place the thermostat on 55 degrees rather than turning it off when leaving for extended periods.
    • Should a pipe burst due to freezing, know how to shut off the main water line to the property.

    Source: Macon Water Authority. For more information, go to www.maconwater.org or call the authority’s call center at 478-474-4600.

When a 2-inch pipe burst twice last week at the Ronald McDonald House in Macon, about 82,000 gallons of water gushed out.

“We normally use about 12 gallons an hour,” said Julie Wilkerson, development director of the lodge for parents of hospitalized children. “But the Water Authority estimates we lost about 10,000 an hour.”

The home’s landscape crew came by about 6:30 a.m. Jan. 7 as the temperature was dropping to a record low of 11 degrees.

Workers shut off the water and the leak was repaired, but another bout of record cold the next day led to a new leak.

“There’s an expense for us in producing that water that is lost, but we want to give an adjustment on the bill,” said Tony Rojas, executive director of the Macon Water Authority.

The water department will review last year’s bill to determine normal water usage and use a formula to calculate a reduced rate for the excess usage, he said.

“We offer leak adjustments if you can show you had a leak and made repairs,” Rojas said. “We don’t want to make adjustments for a leak and the leak still be there.”

The damage at the Ronald McDonald House was obvious as water quickly froze on the grass and iced over trees.

What might go overlooked are smaller cracks in pipes and pinholes that are still leaking.

Sometimes a leak is not discovered until the next water bill is noticeably higher.

MWA customers are encouraged to do some simple inspections to make sure water is not escaping.

Instructions are listed on the authority’s website at www.macon­water.org.

If you have a shut-off valve near the house, turn it off temporarily. If the meter is still running, the leak is between the meter and the house.

Check for soft or muddy areas in the grass to help pinpoint the leak for the plumber.

If the meter is not running, the leak is in the house.

The water authority offers a trick with a metal screwdriver to help locate the leak.

Grab the screwdriver handle with your thumb knuckle on top. Place the metal screwdriver tip on the metal parts of spigots outside, or metal on faucets, shower valves and the washing machine lines inside.

Touching metal to metal, you should be able to hear the leak by placing your ear on your knuckle holding the handle. The louder the noise, the closer it is to that area.

Although last week’s bitter cold is rare, winterizing pipes and water heaters with insulation can prevent ruptures of lines, Rojas said.

Temperatures will be in the mid-20s early Thursday and even colder Saturday.

If you did not have an issue with pipes last week, chances are you won’t have problems with freezing lines this weekend, but Rojas warned there are still weeks of winter ahead.

Dripping water from faucets also can prevent lines from freezing.

The Ronald McDonald House’s Wilkerson, who lives in a renovated 1950s cabin on Lake Sinclair, knows many of her pipes run up outside walls. She drips those lines when temperatures get down into the 20s.

When she heard the forecast for temperatures in the low teens last week, she decided to shut off her water and spend a few nights with her parents in Macon.

After hearing about others’ nightmares while waiting days for repairs, she realizes she made the right decision.

“How much better to live without water for two days than to be without it for a lot longer,” she said.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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