News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 14, 2013
Water mystery continues as Stonington selectmen lose patience

by Alice Wilkinson

At the February 11 Stonington Water Company meeting the selectmen, who are also the officers of the water company, pressed Superintendent Roger Stone for answers about the continuing decline of water in the standpipe.

The standpipe, when full, holds close to a half-million gallons of water.

Selectman Evelyn Duncan said, “We’ve lost a tremendous amount of water. My guess is that we’re down to about 125,000 gallons.”

According to the water company records, in January of this year the water company pumped 806,800 gallons. Of that, 150,000 is gone. Assuming that people used 30,000 gallons a day, that still leaves 27,000 gallons unaccounted for.

Last year, in January 2012, the water company used 630,000 gallons, and pumped an average of 20,000 gallons a day. The water level in the standpipe didn’t change.

Although there were two leaks found last month, one on Highland Avenue and one from a frozen sprinkler at the Penobscot East building, both were fixed and the water is still going somewhere.

Betts asked Stone to check the new line leading to the gym building, and Chairman George Stevens suggested he take one street where he knew there had been a problem and check all the meters.

Stone has been in touch with the eight users known to be running water to keep their lines from freezing, but there may be more.

Water Company President Donna Brewer asked Stone last week to read all the meters in the district to see if anything unusual is happening. He did not, and when she suggested this week that he read the meters he said he “can’t do it with three feet of snow on the ground.”

In response to a question about how long it would take to read all the meters of the 290 customers of the water company, Stone replied, “With this snow, about a week.”

Brewer said, “A week ago we didn’t have any snow.”

The next scheduled reading of the meters is in April.

There was talk about getting someone from Rural Water to listen again to the hydrants which are sited above lines to see if water is running, but Selectman Richard Larrabee said, “We shouldn’t go and call the state until we go and read the meters. We’ve got to find out what’s going on here. This is serious.”

The hydrants have been listened to during the day, but to screen out any usual activity, Duncan asked if they could be read at night instead.

As the selectmen looked at the water company budget, Duncan asked if there is anything Stone thinks should be replaced, and he said, “We have a couple of hydrants from 1898.” Those hydrants were already used when purchased, and he suggested, “We could probably auction them off.”

One of the problems with those hydrants is that there is no automatic shut-off as there is with newer hydrants. That means that if one is damaged the water will come spouting out until someone shuts off the whole line.

When Stone asked if he was getting a raise this year, Duncan said, “I don’t think the water company is a full-time job.”

The water company asks people who are running water to let the town office know, and not to run a stream more than the width of a pencil. They would also like to know if anyone had a leak which they fixed, or if there have been any unusual problems.