Systemic failure leads to Bristol water woes

BRISTOL — Last week many Bristol residents found themselves without water, and the town reservoir went just about dry.
Both of these problems stemmed from a string of systemic failures that began with a faulty water pump, said Selectman Alan Huizenga, who provides engineering services to the town as the president of Green Mountain Engineering.
On March 12, town officials discovered the reservoir was nearly empty due to a newly installed pump that was malfunctioning, said Huizenga. The pump was supplying residents with water, but it wasn’t providing enough pressure to move the water up to the town’s reserve tank. The town switched the water supply to the old pump.
But as officials searched for a solution to the malfunctioning pump, they unearthed a number of other problems.
A valve near the reservoir was stuck in the wrong direction, obstructing water from entering the tank. Huizenga said the valve, which is underground, appears to be broken and was manually lodged open.
Workers also identified an active leak in the system. Huizenga said the town is working with Vermont Rural Water, a group that provides onsite technical assistance to rural communities, to find and plug the leak. By the end of this week, Huizenga hopes to have the problem solved.
Huizenga said the reservoir, which provides water to the town in case of emergencies, was full again by Sunday night.
This isn’t the first time Bristol has dealt with recent water issues. For the past six months, said Town Administrator Bill Bryant, the town has been scrambling to deal with numerous leaks. The largest obstacle to addressing these leaks, he said, is the heap of gravel upon which the village was built.
“The problem in Bristol is always gravel,” said Bryant. “Water just leaks into the gravel and there’s no sign of it. In most other places the water will surface to the ground and you’ll know where the leak is.”
The wasted water and electricity that goes to pumping that water through leaks are putting a hamper on the town’s finances. But as Bryant pointed out, there’s no silver bullet for the town’s finances in this situation.
“We know we’re spending a lot on electricity and water that’s just going into the ground,” he said. “But it’s expensive to find these leaks.”
Until the leaks have officially halted, Bryant asks townspeople to conserve water.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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