As a stream of Columbus water trickles through a south side neighborhood, so does a river of public money.
Watchdog 10 discovered that a 2005 water audit showed that the city lost at least 10 million gallons a day due to leaks at a cost of $637,000 a year.
A water department spokeswoman said that the data was old and the city has since made improvements to its infrastructure.
South side business owner Dave Keil said that he watched a slow leak all summer not be fixed by Columbus workers.
According to Keil, the leak sprang and June 25. Watchdog 10 shot video of the leak on Aug. 24 – two months after Keil reported the leak to the city.
“We were waiting and waiting,” Keil said.
Rick Westerfield, the director of Columbus Water, told Watchdog 10 that the city thought a construction crew in the area had plugged the leak. No one realized that a second leak sprang up and water was still following.
After Watchdog 10 called, the water department realized its crew failed to thoroughly investigation and assumed that the construction company and plugged the hole.
“We identified some improvement opportunities,” Westerfield said. “A judgment call was made by the crew, and we discussed it internally and instead of making those judgment calls, we’re encouraging everybody to just follow the normal process.”
Water department officials said that they were not able to estimate how much the two-month leak cost the city.
Watchdog 10 learned that leaky pipes are an expensive problem for the city every year.
Westerfield said that overall, his department fixes leaks quickly.
“With our three-to-six-day turnaround on most leaks, I would say it is pretty good when you compare that with any other utility,” Westerfield said.
The water department said it was working on a new audit and expected to show the city it has imporved leakage problems.
City officials said that since the 2005 audit, it has quadrupled the amount of money it spends on replacing old lines.
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