Economic Development, Government, and Sustainability

City to develop plan for leaky snowmelt system

This time a full-blown maintenance strategy is to be created.

February 22, 2013
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The ongoing problem with the 15-year-old snowmelt system on Monroe Center continues to be, well, ongoing.

Last October, the Downtown Development Authority, which “owns” the system, allocated $75,000 to investigate why it leaks an antifreeze-like mixture seemingly every winter. At its last meeting, the board agreed to spend another $30,000 on the problem.

This time, though, the $30,000 will be used to create a year-round maintenance plan, as one hasn’t existed since the system’s first phase became operational in 1998. In past years, seasonal work had been done at the snowmelt’s start-up and shutdown. City engineers and Geotech Inc. will develop the plan.

“We are confident that we can get the leaks under control,” said City Engineer Marc De Clercq.

De Clercq told the DDA most leaks have come from the system’s main header piping, but more recently there has been some leakage in the tubing. The circulating water has been surfacing onto brick pavers and leaking into some basements of buildings along Monroe Center, which runs from Monroe Avenue to Division Street. The water loss causes pressure in the system to drop and leaks to appear.

De Clercq said the DDA is most concerned about basements being damaged and possible claims being filed by the owners to cover their repair bills. He said he has some theories about why the system leaks.

“We want to take a step back and do an analysis. When I come back, I want to tell you that we’re confident,” said De Clercq. He added the work would create an alternative plan and he hopes to have it finalized in July.

In the system’s recent history, leaks were detected in 2008 and the liquid was changed from a mixture of glycol and water to water with a corrosion inhibitor to prevent glycol from getting into the ground. But random leaks have popped up over the last three winters, mostly from Ottawa Avenue east to Division Avenue.

“We currently have a good bit of information,” said De Clercq. “We know the PVC headers have to be replaced.”

Other parts of the plan De Clercq presented include developing a new operating procedure for the system by October and issuing bids for construction that would take place next year.

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