Crews say broken valves led to low water pressure

After searching for more than a day, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department crews found two broken valves Monday night that were causing low water pressure at 40,000 homes in southeast Mecklenburg county.

CMUD officials said late Monday that they were working on a plan to fix the valves, including one at the Plaza Road Booster Station that was identified as the primary culprit. The valve should be closed, CMUD said in a statement, but water was passing through.

Water quality was unaffected, and crews were trying to keep the water flowing to customers as they came up with a plan to fix the problem, but CMUD acknowledged they may have to shut down or redirect nearly a mile of pipe. Authorities encouraged customers to conserve water.

“We are striving to keep folks with water while shutting down lines to fix the issue,” CMUD officials said in a statement late Monday. It wasn’t clear how long the problem might take to repair.

The leak is producing low water pressure in the east and southeast part of Mecklenburg County, said CMUD director Barry Gullet.

Officials called in extra crews to find the leak after spending Sunday and Monday trying to identify the cause of the low pressure.

The department had received 27 phone calls about low water pressure by 4 p.m. Monday. Gullet said utilities crews, bolstered by the help of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and Charlotte firefighters, started trying to find the source of the leak Sunday afternoon.

“It’s frustrating,” Gullet said Monday.

He said utilities officials were a bit surprised that they received only a small number of complaints from water customers. But he suspects the water system’s fail-safe programs are minimizing the problem.

“This could be a case where a large number of customers are affected but don’t really realize it,” he said. “Their water pressure might have dropped, but not enough to really notice.”

For example, Gullet said one Charlotte firefighter who lives in Matthews reported that the water pressure in the shower at home was lower than usual.

Officials said the area affected is east of Old Concord and Sharon Amity roads, affecting parts of east and southeast Charlotte, Mint Hill and Matthews.

Gullet said automated gauges detected water levels dropping at CMUD tanks in the Wilgrove area of east Charlotte and on Plaza Road Extension.

“When that happened, the system automatically began pumping more water into those tanks,” Gullet said. “But even though we were pumping a lot of water, the tanks didn’t fill. That told us that we had a major problem.”

Police and firefighters spent Sunday night aiming floodlights on their vehicles at possible leak areas. Meanwhile, CMUD crews inspected valves and other connections. They couldn’t find the source of the problem.

Gullet said the customers most likely to notice significant low pressure or even service outages were those living on hills. He said there was a chance the problem could worsen for residents and business owners in the affected area.

City officials said the water supply in the affected area is safe to drink. There have been no problems reported for customers in the rest of CMUD’s service area, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials reported no problems with school water supplies Monday.

Gullet suggested that people who live in southeast Mecklenburg cut their use of water until the problem is fixed. He suggested residents and businesses not use lawn irrigation systems or do laundry.

Anyone experiencing low or no water pressure is asked to notify CharMeck 311 by calling 311 or 704-336-7600. Staff writer Elisabeth Arriero contributed

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