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770,000-gallon leak at Palmyra residence

Plumber Bill White had a hydrant in his yard connected to a two-inch water line because he wanted the volume. He got it.
The line ruptured at a seam, and the man-made geyser went unnoticed for two to three weeks, jetting 770,000 gallons before being discovered.
How much water is that exactly, and how does one overlook it?
Palmyra’s old water tank (a new one is under construction at Central Barren, see photo, page 2) holds 125,000 gallons. The entire town uses about 350,000 gallons on a busy day (Palmyra Water Co. has about 1,400 customers). It will take about 200,000 gallons to fill the Harrison County YMCA’s two swimming pools. The water that leaked from White’s line weighed 3,080 tons.
That’s not so bad.
It would take 15,000 tons to float the ocean-going icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov.
A lot of things can be done with 770,000 gallons. It also costs a lot of money, and White has the bill. It’s a new take on an old adage: Never make an adjustment for a guy who buys his water by the barrel.
The town is charging White the wholesale rate for gallons over his normal usage for a grand total of $1,792. The good news is that the water ran down a sinkhole and not the drain, so it won’t go on White’s sewer bill.
That’s small consolation for White. He said he doesn’t agree with the Palmyra Town Council’s decision.
‘I’m going to pursue other options because I have to,’ he said.
White said surges hit hard at his house which is on the end of a water line. He said the surges result in a ‘hammer effect,’ forcing trapped air to pound against his plumbing after a loss of service, and he feels an exception should be made.
His case is certainly exceptional.
White’s water line is about 450 feet long and leaves the municipal system near Old S.R. 135. White travels to and from his house by way of S.R. 135. However, White and his wife, Nancy, often pace the line during their evening walks.
For several weeks at the time the leak occurred, Nancy was visiting her mother, and White had moved his daily constitutional to his basement treadmill. The house was never without water pressure. When Nancy came home, the Whites resumed their walks and found water welling up from the ground and running to a sinkhole ‘as secretive as could be,’ White said.
The town knew there was a serious leak, but the source hadn’t been pinpointed.
White attended the council’s March 4 meeting and said that Palmyra Water Co. customers are subject to unusually high pressure and surges. He said that his home was particularly at risk by being located at the end of a line.
White also mentioned a recent mishap in which a Palmyra man’s shower head flew off and hit him in the chest.
‘There are people who say, ‘I like that pressure,’ ‘ said Palmyra utilities superintendent Randy Trett, who was familiar with the incident. He also said the shower head wasn’t solidly attached.
‘You’ve got places where you are going to have high pressure. It’s not just us. It’s all water companies,’ he said.
White disagrees.
‘How do you protect the homeowner? How do you protect the little old lady? Old people lose thousands of dollars a year because they don’t know any better,’ he said.
White contends that Palmyra’s water pressure needlessly causes leaks in toilets, sinks and plumbing in general in customers’ homes. He said the town should have sensors to help locate excessive usage, and customers ought to have pressure-reducing valves at their meters.
Town attorney Gordon Ingle said the town’s responsibility is to get the water to the household.
Installing pressure regulators is up to the individual, Trett said.