The Town of Ladysmith has been plagued by leaks in copper water service lines for the past year, but Director of Infrastructure Services, Geoff Goodall is hopeful that the problem has slowed down.
In 2020, there were 75 water service line leaks compared to 27 leaks in 2019 and 28 leaks in 2017. So far in 2021, there have been 30 leaks.
“It seems to have slowed down a bit, but we certainly started the year on that same 2020 trend,” Goodall said. “We have had times where it seemed to slow down a bit before, then we would find more leaks. Part of the challenge is the leaks are underground and some are quite small.”
Goodall said that the Town has not definitively proven what is causing the leaks to occur, but they have found that the leaks are only occurring on ageing copper service lines on the Town-owned side of the service lines.
“It’s not on water mains, it’s on copper services — the ones that go from the water main to houses,” Goodall said. “Years ago the Town used something called a flared fitting and when you use a flared fitting it makes the copper thinner. The majority of our leaks occur at those flared fittings where the copper is thinner.”
Leaks have also occurred at spots where the copper had been manipulated or bent. At this point, the Town does not have plans to proactively replace copper service lines. Instead, the Town responds to the leaks and replaced the copper services with a non-metallic material which Goodall says should last ‘indefinitely’.
The leading hypothesis is that the leaks may be tied to the new water filtration plant as the frequency of leaks increased dramatically after the plant began operating.
The chemical composition of the Town’s water has changed. A majority of dissolved organic materials that used to be present in the Town’s water have now been removed, making the water is much cleaner than before. The water is also has a lower corrosivity level than before. The Town has sent samples off for testing to determine what could be behind the leaks.
“I can’t stay definitively that that’s what it is, but it’s certainly one of the hypotheses that we’re looking at,” Goodall said. “We suspect that there were probably small pinholes that existed in these services to start with.”
Whatever the cause may be, one certainty is that the existing copper services are ageing out and they will need to replaced as part of the Town’s infrastructure maintenance program.