Officials: Rusty Shipherd water lines need fixed now

By Jason Hawk -



Reddish-brown water running to Shipherd Circle homes signal a need for line repairs sooner rather than later, say utilities experts.

“You’re welcome to come to my house tonight. I’ll turn the water on and you’ll see for yourself how orange it is,” resident Lisa Kavanaugh told city council Monday.

Old, unlined cast iron pipes are a problem not just on Oberlin’s east side but across the country, said city water superintendent Jerry Hade.

The lines are supposed to last about 70 years. The ones serving Shipherd are a little older than 60 years.

“This particular area is just one that’s not lasting,” Hade said, later adding, “This area has seen its life and it’s time. “

Water main improvements were made along East College Street last June.

“Since that project was completed, we have been chasing rusty water problems around the circle for about 10 months,” said public works director Jeff Baumann.

In a memo to city council president Ronnie Rimbert, he said the initial belief was that East College repairs “had substantially increased the velocity of the water in the unlined cast iron water mains and/or that the improvements and subsequent valving configurations had changed the normal direction of flow in the Shipherd Circle subdivision.”

Complaints have been lodged by residents of 17 of 72 homes.

By reconfiguring how the water lines are valved, workers have been able to shift the problem from one place to the next, but not eliminate it.

As a short-term fix, crews have flushed the system through fire hydrants until the water ran clear.

Complaints halted until December, when more “valving regimes” were tried without lasting success.

“At this point, we’ve concluded the only long-term way to address this problem is to replace that water line in its entirety,” Baumann told city council.

With input from engineering firm Burgess & Niple, the city public works commission is asking for $335,000 to be reallocated for Shipherd Circle. The cash had been earmarked for water distribution work from Hamilton Street to Reserve Avenue.

Replacing water mains could cost in the range of $600,000 to $750,000, according to early estimates.

Baumann and Hade want to have the project designed for bid in early September, with work to be completed by the end of the year.

In the meantime, Burgess & Niple suggests high-velocity flushing, which could dislodge rust inside the mains but also increases the chance of breaks.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.


By Jason Hawk