Valve upgrades not in place soon enough

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

The city of Portales has spent a little over a year working to avoid the water problems caused in February 2006 when a 24-inch water main failed. The upgrades were still a couple months off when another big line burst Sunday.

Installing a series of valves that would enable the city to shut down water in a particular area is the goal, according to Public Works Director Tom Howell.

A computer model prepared by Smith Engineering indicating the best places for installing additional valves was presented to the City Council earlier this spring.

Money for the valve project is in the upcoming fiscal budget that starts in July, according to Howell.
“We’ve got the plan and we just need to see how we are going to do it,” Howell said.

He said there are several alternatives for tackling the project and key to making a decision will be interrupting service as little as possible.

Howell said when a large line fails it’s always going to be trouble. But he believes with valves eventually installed in the right places the interruption could possibly be held to just lower water pressure instead of extended outages.

“We went ahead and took the extra time and installed a valve when we replaced the section of pipe,” Howell said.

The 24-inch, 20-foot long PVC pipe split along the side, according to a press release from the city of Portales.
In the 2006 incident the crack spiraled around the pipe.

A cause of the failure was not determined but city officials speculated it could have been because the pipe wasn’t bedded properly.

Howell wasn’t sure what caused the latest break either, but said he was going to have engineers examine the pipe . He said he was also planning on checking into the manufacturer of the pipe to see if there was a history of failure in certain batches.