Overdue repairs close city’s water tower

GREENFIELD — The city’s largest water tower will be out of service until the end of the month — weeks longer than anticipated — for $75,000 in maintenance and repairs that were years overdue.

Since the end of August, the water tower near Franklin Street and New Road, which holds 1.5 million gallons of water, has been under renovation, a project officials say should have been completed around the 10-year mark, which was in 2011. Officials said they expected to restore the tank’s exterior with a fresh coat of paint and to wash out and inspect the interior this summer, but when the crew hired to do the work got inside the tank, workers realized the delay signaled the need for more extensive repair, which added about $20,000 to the bill.

A clean and efficiently working water tower is essential in supplying city residents with clean drinking water and water pressure for their homes.

Water superintendent Charles Gill said the tank’s interior needs a complete renovation, including repairs to its roof and floor, a deep cleaning and new paint, which helps keep the tank’s steel from rusting. The maintenance will likely keep the tank out of service until the end of the month; the work was expected to take just a few weeks.

It’s routine for water utilities to close towers so the towers can be cleaned and receive a fresh coat of paint, but that maintenance needs to be done every 10 years, Gill said. The north water tower hadn’t been drained and thoroughly inspected since it was built in 2001, city utilities director Mike Fruth said. Officials knew the tank eventually would need to be restored but didn’t expect it to need so much work at this stage, he said.

Now, Gill and his office have put a schedule in place to wash out and inspect the city’s towers once every two years, so crews can stay on top of maintenance and repairs. That work will be staggered so only one tank is out of service at time to ensure the water department can successfully supply the 2.5 million gallons of water used around the city each day.

Most residents don’t notice any changes in their water or its pressure when a tank is taken out of service, Gill said. Occasionally, they’ll notice changes in the color of the water while the city works to redistribute its stored supplies, he said.

Fruth said the tower maintenance helps keep the water clean and free of contaminants, such as rust.

“It’s a quality issue,” Fruth said. “This is the same water we drink and use to wash our dishes.”

Gill agreed, saying the water utility is charged with providing safe, clean and good water. To do that, it will make habit of inspecting every aspect of the city’s water system.

“We have a commitment to our citizens, to our city, to make sure that system is operating as well as it can, and I’m committed to making that happen,” he said.

Mayor Chuck Fewell said he knows the work is important; recently, he heard stories about water towers in other states that weren’t maintained, leading to impurities contaminating the water supply. Keeping up with repairs and maintenance along the way will help to keep Greenfield from facing similar problems because repairs are put off, he said.

“Putting (a maintenance schedule) in place with this procedure will allow us to not wait 10 to 15 years to do this,” he said.

The interior and exterior work on the tower is complete. Now, officials are waiting for paint to dry, and they hope to fill it with water next week.

“We actually now have what I consider to be a new interior. It is in pristine condition,” Gill said.

Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.