Frustrated and venting

I am losing, I think, about $500/month on my water/sewer bill. This the difference between what I pay for the master meter and what comes back to me from sub-metering each home. I wouldn’t worry so much about lost water except that the sewer cost is almost 3 times the water cost and based on water usage. The uncollected amount has actually dropped a couple of hundred bucks since I bought the place as I have fixed various leaks.

The frustrating part is that I can’t tell if is one great big leak or a combination of small ones.

Here is the technical stuff: I’m in NE Ohio and the lines (Schedule 40 PVC) are buried 2-3’ below the surface. A 2" master meter comes into the park and the valve/city meter were upgraded a “few” years ago according to the seller. The main line then splits into two trunk lines that service the 42 spaces. 28 spaces are currently occupied. 3/4" lines come to the surface under each home in an 8" PVC pipe. Below the soil is a “fire hydrant valve” (local name) that is turned by a metal shaft that comes up to above the top of the 8" PVC pipe. These valves are steel and almost every one I have dug up has been leaking. Some were leaking quite a bit. The valves are all rusted and most of the turn off shafts cannot turn the frozen underground valve. Lousy design that might have worked had the valves been brass. I’m upgrading the lots to 15 x 67 foot concrete pads and replacing all the underground parts. First I put in a brass check valve to keep people’s water heaters from draining. On the new 3/4", Schedule 40, riser, I install a brass ball valve with a bleed hole as far down below grade as I can comfortably reach. I only use American parts and anyone who has tried to get a tight connection with that garbage from China will understand why. Above the brass valve I install a commercial grade PVC ball valve just as a backup. A 12" corrugated black plastic pipe goes around the riser. Sand gets backfilled around the outside of the corrugated drain pipe and also inside up to just below the brass ball valve. A circle of foam goes inside the well pipe to insulate things and a plastic cap or piece of plywood keeps out the rain until a home gets placed.

Ask me to clarify if something above is unclear.

As you can see, I’m pretty anal about doing a good job and I’m stopping the leaks one by one. The work and the cost don’t concern me as I do all of these myself and getting pretty fast at it.

Here is where I get frustrated:

  1. I sit on top of coal seams and this means springs. There are several springs that run even in the summer that could mask a leak. How the hell do I tell if there is a leak under a spring?

  2. With the exception of the springs, water is not coming to the surface. I’m on a hill and the pipes may be deep enough to prevent the water from showing anywhere.

  3. If the lost water is due solely to leaking shut-off valves and I can’t tell which valves are leaking the worst, I may have to dig up EVERY damned one of them under each home. The residents would be justifiably pissed as such a disruption. I would have to wait until spring to do the work. I’d have to remove blocks which means temporary use of house jacks to support the home. It would be a complete and total mess.

  4. Now the city is upset as they insist on coming out there to turn the water on and off. They say they want to charge me as I take up so much of their valuable time. I’m waiting for the appropriate time to remind them that I am paying for sewer charges that I am not using but I think I will eventually have to get an attorney to make this point more forcefully.

  5. Have thought about hiring a leak detection company with acoustic equipment but they warn me upfront that they may not be able to detect small leaks.

Enough venting. Anyone got any ideas or see something I have overlooked?

Rolf Jacobs

Wheat Hill MHC