Charlotte water pressure is back up as repairs underway

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department said no customers in the county were experiencing low water pressure due to a malfunctioning valve late Tuesday, though crews still have to replace the busted valve on Wednesday.

Construction equipment began digging Tuesday morning off The Plaza in northeast Charlotte, where the valve stuck in an “open” position Sunday and prevented two nearby water tanks from replenishing their supplies.

That, in turn, caused low water pressure for about a quarter of the system’s customers in what Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Director Barry Gullet called a rare but widespread problem.

On Monday afternoon, engineers finally traced the trouble to a valve buried about 6 feet underground in a pumping station off The Plaza. Then overnight, the engineers figured a way to isolate the problem to a 12-street area near the bad valve. About 300 customers had low water pressure.

“It’s unusual for our water system to have a widespread problem like this,” said Gullet, who has worked with CMUD for more than three decades.

Engineers said it will take two days to complete repairs but no water outages are expected.

“The original problems with low water pressure came in tanks in the Wilgrove and Plaza Road Extension areas,” Gullet said, adding that automated sensors began reporting trouble in those tanks Sunday afternoon.

Low pressure affected an area from Old Concord Road in northeast Charlotte down across east Charlotte, Mint Hill, Matthews and southeast Charlotte. CMUD crews, along with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers and Charlotte firefighters, worked late Sunday night and early Monday to find the leak, using spotlights to look for large puddles of water.

By Monday, officials began to suspect that the problem might be somewhere near the two water tanks where low water pressure initially was reported.

The process was complicated, Gullet said, by the discovery of several other small problems. He said CMUD officials knew about some of the problems earlier, but a few were new. The major culprit, Gullet said, was a large valve that apparently had become stuck in the “open” position. That apparently allowed water to flow out of the two storage tanks.

He said there was no leak. Rather, he said, the broken valve allowed water to keep flowing when it should have been stopped.

The 300-customer area was a cluster of about a dozen streets on either side of The Plaza, between Barrington Drive and East W.T. Harris Boulevard in northeast Charlotte.

Gullet said the problem was unusual. Despite the large area affected by low water pressure, utilities officials received fewer than three dozen complaint calls.

“Some of the safeguards in our system prevented this from being a much bigger problem,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Those safeguards were system backups that managed to equalize water pressure in the affected area, so that most customers did not have a noticeable impact on their service. Gullet said many customers might have lost some of their pressure, but not enough to notice.

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