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'Ice pig' could help solve city's brown water problem

Staff writer

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt is tired of the taps in his house dispensing brown water, and he knows other residents are tired of it, too.

With a $1.9 million water line replacement project on the table for 2017, city administrator Roger Holter has been insistent on finding a way to avoid adding to the city’s debt.

Enter the ice pig. Maybe.

“Ice pigging” is a practice of cleaning pipes using an ice slurry. The slurry is inserted into a section of pipe like a pig of metal and pumped through it, scouring the pipe and clearing sediment along the way.

Utility Service Group, an Atlanta, Georgia-based firm licensed to do ice pigging in the United States, claimed the process is up to 1,000 times more effective than flushing pipe through normal methods.

“It may help us address some of the water quality issues,” Holter said. “It won’t change the problem where we’re having water mains break because of the age, but those have been identified on the replacement map.”

Ice pigging the mains could reduce the cost of a water line replacement project, Heitschmidt said. Older pipes would still need to be replaced, but those in decent condition producing brown water because of sediment may not need replacement if the process is as effective as advertised.

Holter showed a YouTube video created by Utility Service Group about the process.

Ice pigging uses less water than regular flushing and no chemicals. An ice pigging is said to be effective for around five years, Holter said.

Ice pigging the city’s entire water line system would cost as much as $250,000, Holter said. It could be a way to temporarily clean pipes without adding a tremendous amount of debt.

Holter told council Monday that previous statements he made about being unable to issue bonds to fund the project were erroneous because a water project wouldn’t count against the city’s bond limit; however, he remained opposed to the project, which would put the city’s debt service at more than 50 percent of its budget if approved.

The city did not make a final decision on ice pigging, but will continue with research as to its effectiveness. Utility Service Group has a facility in Pittsburg. Heitschmidt said the city would consider testing the process on a small section of pipe, if the cost of mobilizing the company wasn’t too much.

“We need to prove for ourselves that this process works,” Heitschmidt said.

In other business:

  • A public hearing for the budget drew no citizen attendees, and it was approved as presented.
  • A grant to fund improvements to East Park was approved 4-1, with councilman Jerry Kline dissenting. He voiced no opposition during discussion, only voting no and explaining, “I feel we don’t have the money to do it, that’s the reason I vote no.” The city will pay about $22,000 of the project’s total cost of $240,000.

Last modified Aug. 5, 2015

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