By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 20, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – County utilities officials are optimistic about the possibility they will be able to finally end ongoing water restrictions in three Prince George subdivisions come later this month as they make substantial progress toward bringing a damaged reservoir back online, along with temporary water capacity on-site.
Utilities Director Frank Haltom gave the update last week during a pair of meetings, one of which featured a packed boardroom of residents in the Jordan on the James community who sought information about ongoing water restrictions and concerns about a years-long issue of brown water flowing into their homes.
Jordan on the James, Beechwood Manor, and Eagle Preserve’s water system customers have been under water use restrictions since mid-Spring as county utility crews worked to rehabilitate a key water reservoir in Beechwood Manor. Days before that work was slated to wrap and the restrictions were to end, a severe thunderstorm moved through northern Prince George, downing a tree onto the roof of the facility, causing severe damage to the wood-frame structure.
As a result of that damage, those restrictions were extended until further notice, with prohibitions on “sprinkling, watering or irrigation of new and established lawns,” washing cars, including commercial vehicles, and “the outdoor surfaces of all buildings and structures, sidewalks, and driveways,” and “filling or cleaning … swimming, wading pools, and decorative fountains,” with $100 fines possible for those found violating the restrictions.
Since that time, Haltom has told supervisors and local media that over 400 homes are being served by only one well now, a well that is being used at a rate that places the pump at risk of failure, which has resulted in efforts by the county and local health department representatives to work to prevent such a scenario from happening as that could result in several days without water for those communities until a new pump can be installed.
“If that one does fail, then we would have a catastrophe on our hands so we want to make sure we protect that well as best we can,” he said last week.
One way the county and health officials are doing that is by strategically placing a temporary storage tank at Beechwood Manor to help provide some relief to the Jordan on the James well. That storage arrived on June 6 and was brought online last week, with contractors installing the suitable piping to allow the unit to bypass the reservoir and go directly to the booster pumps. Haltom stressed that the tank itself would not allow for the restrictions to end, but provide needed support to the Jordan on the James well, the lone pump providing water to over 1,000 people in that area while Beechwood remains offline.
What will provide an opportunity to possibly end restrictions will be a detailed plan laid out by Haltom last week, which features the construction of a temporary roof structure while a new metal roof is fabricated by contractors in Virginia Beach. According to Haltom, with the temporary water storage on hand, they are now preparing to paint the reservoir for a second time after much of the work done during the rehabilitation has been rendered moot.
In order to perform that painting, Haltom said they would need a break in the rain that has plagued the region over the last few weeks, needing at least two days without precipitation so painting can occur. After that is done, then the county’s contractors believe that paint can cure effectively over the course of seven days based on the temperature available during this time of year.
When that work finishes, their attention would turn to applying some form of a temporary roof which, according to Haltom, the materials for that structure were slated to arrive late last week, with the expectation that it would take approximately a day to install. Once that roof is on, the process of filling it will occur over several days, given the 95,000 gallon storage building would be filled by a pump that flows at 40 gallons per minute.
“After that is filled, we disinfect it. We take samples on two consecutive days to make that it passes at the lab to make sure there are no contaminants in it. The lab will provide a certificate that says it is safe for drinking water, then we can put it back in service,” Haltom explained.
Following that process, he said, “If all things go well,” they could have the Beechwood Manor water storage building back in operation as early as June 23, providing relief to residents and allowing for the ability to remove water restrictions.
The permanent metal roof being constructed in Virginia Beach is expected to take between 3-5 weeks be fabricated at their facility before being transported to Prince George for assembly over the course of seven to ten days. With that, Haltom said they are providing a conservative date of July 27 for the permanent roof to be completed, factoring in the possibility of setbacks.
He stressed they will not be removing the recently installed water storage once the temporary roof is installed just in case something happens to that roof structure in the future as they wait for the permanent roof structure.
“Should anything go awry with our temporary roof, any type of tear or contamination to the reservoir, we have that temporary storage and facility in place to immediately connect it back in to keep Jordan on the James well protected,” Haltom detailed. “Once we install the temporary roof and something does go wrong, we have to put out water restrictions to our customers who are already frustrated with the two months of restrictions they have currently been on.”
Haltom continued to reiterate the importance of residents following the restrictions that remain in place until county utilities officials say they are no longer needed. According to Haltom, while most have adhered to the restrictions, they have still seen some customers continuing to irrigate as they have recorded 15 occurrences of irrigation at nearly a dozen different homes, with some of those being repeat offenses.
The county will alert those affected once repairs are complete and restrictions are lifted. Those with questions are asked to contact the county’s utilities department director Frank Haltom at 804-722-8688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.