You think you’re having a hard time keeping up with your watering chores.
Crews with the city’s water department are struggling to keep one of Lawrence’s two water treatment plants operating as temperatures remain high and dry conditions persist.
The city is undertaking at least $200,000 worth of emergency repairs at the Kaw Water Treatment Plant near Third and Indiana streets.
As previously reported, the aging plant had to be shut down in early June after a key pipe became clogged and the plant was unable to draw water from the Kansas River. On Friday, city officials acknowledged that the plant had to be shut down a second time — about two weeks ago — for the same reasons.
“It is a significant problem, and we don’t know exactly what is causing it,” said Jeanette Klamm, a spokeswoman for the city’s utilities department.
The second shutdown did cause the city to ask some of its larger water users — Kansas University, golf courses and other major irrigators — to voluntarily reduce their water usage until the problem could be resolved. The plant was brought back on line the next day, and normal water production resumed.
Thus far, Klamm said city officials do not think it is likely the problems at the plant will require residential customers to begin curtailing their water usage.
“We don’t anticipate that right now,” Klamm said. “We’re not at that point.”
But water department leaders are plenty concerned.
“It is imperative that we figure out what is going on,” Klamm said.
Sand may be the culprit that is clogging the plant’s main water intake from the Kaw. Klamm said the pump station along the river has large amounts of sand. An outside contractor is scheduled to arrive on Monday to begin pumping the sand from the station. Crews will work around the clock to pump the sand; while crews are working, the Kaw plant will be able to operate only at minimal levels.
The city has set up a temporary pump and created an over-land piping system to allow some water to be pumped into the plant during the time period.
Lawrence has a second, more modern plant that treats water pulled from Clinton Lake. That plant has the ability to provide water to the entire community during normal conditions, but Klamm said it does become strained when water demands are high from people watering their lawns.
The situation at the Kaw plant has been exacerbated by the fact the plant is designed to run with two water intakes. But one of the water intakes has been inoperable for several years. The city’s proposed 2012 budget — scheduled to be approved on Tuesday — includes more than $7 million for that intake to be repaired.
Other problems, though, also are surfacing at the plant. Water plant officials said a key debris screen and a clarifying filter have been badly damaged. Fixing those two parts are included in the $200,000 worth of emergency repairs. Klamm said it will be critical for those pieces to be operational before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins raising the water levels in the Kaw by releasing water held in upstream lakes. When those releases begin, the amount of debris in the river increases significantly.
“That would be a big issue for us to deal with,” Klamm said.