Bristol water system needs repairs
BRISTOL — When the water systems in most towns are experiencing a leak, identifying the problem area can be a simple matter of watching for where the excess water bubbles up to the surface.
But in Bristol, which sits atop a plateau of gravel and has a water system that dates back to 1905, things are rarely that simple.
Town officials say their water monitors indicate that Bristol loses some of its water supply en route from the reservoir to customers’ homes. The loss, according to Town Administrator Bill Bryant, could be as bad as “50-50” — only delivering half the water that the town pumps.
To make matters worse, identifying the location of the leak — or multiple leaks — is a more daunting task in Bristol than it might be elsewhere. Tons of water simply vanish into the gravel under the town without flooding fields, cracking pavement, or otherwise indicating that something has gone awry.
“As always, Bristol’s gravel is both its biggest blessing and biggest curse,” quipped Bryant in a Monday interview. “That plateau of gravel is a great way for water to disappear. Other soils, you know where it is. Soil gets wet.”
The town is taking steps to identify a problem area, starting with the lowest-costing methods. Last week, the town and its systems operator, Waterbury-based Simon Operating Systems, went out and tried to identify underground leaks using high-tech listening equipment, but the results were inconclusive, Bryant said.
Within the next month, the town will spend the darkest hours of one night, when people are unlikely to be using their water, shutting off sections of Bristol’s water supply while monitoring water pressure at the reservoir, to see if they can isolate the problem areas first by section of town and then, hopefully, by street.
Bristol’s water system covers five-and-a-half miles of village streets and has more than 100 “galvanized lines,” smaller pipes that connect the mainline to people’s homes, which are notorious for leaking. Parts of the system are more than 100 years old, though repairs have certainly been made over the decades.
“It’s been kind of a crazy detective game to try to pinpoint where these things are,” Bryant said.
In the meantime, Bryant encouraged Bristol residents to get in touch with him if they notice wet spots in their yards or around town.
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