Water problems may resolve with opening of new storage tank
The water tower might as well have been a mile away.
But it was just across the road from the home of Ed and Mary Harris.
And it was empty.
The Harrises, and about 165 other customers who rely on Rural Water District 6, were without water for 24 hours last week from late Sunday to late Monday.
Last Sunday evening, Harris, who is 92, noticed the trickle of water coming from their faucets, so before going to bed he prepared for a possible dry spell.
"I filled the coffee pot and the tea kettle and I went down to the pond and got water to flush our stool with," Harris said, noting he hauled the buckets of pond water in a cart pulled by a small tractor.
And, he drained a couple of gallons of standing water from the hose on the front porch.
Usually when the water goes off, Harris said, it's back in a couple of hours. But this dry spell lingered.
"I thought something's wrong," Harris said. "Either the water tower's running out of water or we've got a break or something."
At Miles Excavating, at the east edge of Basehor, workers stayed up most of the night, using heavy equipment to get to the water line, buried about 25 feet underground.
According to Mike Huey, pipe superintendent for Miles, it turned out that the outage wasn't caused by a break in the line, but by a blown-out gasket.
"When we dug it all up, we found the problem," Huey said. "It was at a bell and the gasket was kicked out."
Huey said it was a long day for the crew.
"We dug on it from 7:30 in the morning and I left there at a quarter till three the next morning," Huey said. "We put it back together and put enough dirt back to turn the water back on."
Huey said it was a relief to have the line repaired.
"We didn't want anybody to be out of water longer than they had to be," Huey said. "That's why we stayed all night to be able to help them out."
The water line is part of a wholesale water system that carries water from Bonner Springs to the city of Tonganoxie, Rural Water District 6 and Rural Water District 9.
According to Tonganoxie city engineer Brian Kingsley, the water is transported in a 10-inch pipe, starting at 142nd Street in Basehor. It travels under a portion of the Miles Excavating business and then crosses under U.S. Highway 24-40 and on the north side of the highway heads west into Tonganoxie.
Mike Reischman has served on the water board of RWD 6 for about 10 years. He said RWD 6, which has no wells of its own, relies on the piped-in water for its 165 customers. In contrast, he said, RWD 9 and the city of Tonganoxie have wells that they can use as needed. When the wholesale water line was shut down last week, Tonganoxie and RWD9 customers likely didn't know it, because their water providers were able to supply water from their wells.
Reischman said it's not uncommon for the wholesale water line to have an occasional line break or other problem.
The problem in this instance is that the water line was so far beneath the surface, Reischman said.
"When it was put in, it was five feet deep," Reischman said. "Now it's 25."
The depth of the line has increased because in the past few years, Miles Excavating has added fill material to the area where the water line crosses Miles' property.
The water line problem happened in a bad location, Reischman said, adding, "Everything lined up just right to be wrong. ... That line was deep out through that field and Miles is working with us to get it relocated. They're going to get it raised up and moved over so it's not so deep."
Kingsley, Tonganoxie's city engineer, agreed the line should be moved.
"You don't want your pipe 20 feet deep," Kingsley said. "You want it shallow enough so you can maintain it properly and so that when it breaks you're not out of water for 24 hours."
Relief is on the way
Despite that fact that the wholesale water line runs through areas where intense building may be occurring, and where it crosses over Stranger and Tonganoxie creeks, Reischman said RWD 6 customers soon could expect to have a better backup system.
In recent weeks, Reischman's business, Meadows Construction, completed preliminary earthwork at the top of a hill west of Tonganoxie on construction of Suburban Water's new water storage tank.
Mike Breuer, president of Suburban Water, said his company is installing a 1.5 million-gallon concrete tank on the hilltop west of U.S. Highway 24-40 and Kansas Avenue. The tank will be constructed by Natgun, which specializes in construction of concrete tanks. The tank will be 43 feet tall and 78 feet wide.
"It should be finished in about three months," Breuer said.
Water for the new storage tank will come from Suburban's wells near Basehor, as well as from a new line Suburban has installed that runs from the Kansas City Kansas Board of Public Utilities water distribution hookup near Basehor, to southwest of Tonganoxie.
Breuer said he's looking forward to serving customers in RWD6 once a hookup can be made into that system.
"We'll be ready," Breuer said.