Arkansas utility sees rise in pipe breaks

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The water utility covering Central Arkansas saw a sharp increase in the number of broken pipes this winter, most likely due to colder-than-normal temperatures and aging infrastructure, officials said.

The 203 broken pipes from December through February amounted to a 64 percent increase from the previous year for Central Arkansas Water, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Monday. Officials said cold temperatures, aging pipes and a velocity increase caused by higher water demand led to the rise.

The utility went over its $1 million budget for repairs and maintenance by $100,000 in January and February. But officials said revenue was above forecasts during those months because customers used more water by letting their faucets drip to prevent freezing.

“When you have extreme weather, whether it’s cold winters or hot summers, you may have a higher amount of breaks, but you’ll always have higher revenue as well,” said John Tynan, the agency’s director of public affairs.

This past winter, temperatures in central Arkansas dropped as low as 9 degrees and a total of 4 inches of snow and ice fell from December through February. Back-to-back storms left many areas without any relief from the cold temperatures. Central Arkansas Water last saw this many breaks in the 2009-2010 winter, when 208 pipes broke.

Central Arkansas Water Chief Executive Graham Rich said galvanized pipes are more likely to break than newer PVC pipes. The utility is in the process of replacing older galvanized pipe, with an average of 4.1 miles replaced each year, Rich said.

“We should be replacing a whole lot more than that,” he said. “It needs to be significantly increased, but to get to that point it’s going to take a number of years. We need to put the process in place to start increasing the amount and have a dedicated commitment to replace a certain amount of pipe every year.”

Central Arkansas Water has 123,000 customers in Pulaski, Saline and Grant counties.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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