ELYRIA — A project designed to boost water pressure in a northside neighborhood has left some Elyria residents feeling a tug of impatience as they go without water, sometimes for hours at a time.
“I’m trying to potty-train three toddlers,” Dena Meredith of Hawthorne Street said Thursday. “I thought we’d be out of water for 10 minutes.”
By late Thursday afternoon, those 10 minutes turned into hours as Meredith and dozens of residents in the St. Jude neighborhood went without running water because the city was cleaning water mains in the area.
The three toddlers that Meredith babysat that day had to urinate in a bucket, while other residents in the area conjured up their own creative solutions for their water woes: One used a hose to wash outdoors, another simply sat out on the porch and waited until the toilet could flush.
The weeks-long, $500,000 project started around Labor Day and will end Oct. 28, said John Snyder, an Elyria city engineer.
It encompasses a web of streets north of Poplar Street — Marseilles, Beebe, Hawthorne, Longfellow and Sycamore — and was undertaken because of low water pressure in the area, mainly to fire hydrants but also to homes.
“It’s more a maintenance thing,” Snyder said. “Fire (water) flow in those areas is greatly affected by … sedimentation and corrosion inside the pipes.”
The process involves flushing the water mains, then recoating the inside of the mains with a cement layer to protect them from corrosion and create a smooth lining for the water to flow through.
While the mains are being flushed and recoated, however, work crews have to bypass them with an above-ground pipe so residents can still get water in their homes.
But the work crews also have to visit each home and flush the water pipes from inside, so residents have to be home to let the workers in.
During that time — about an eight-hour period for each street — residents have been without water, but Snyder said the city and contractors placed fliers on each home alerting residents to the repairs.
Some folks, like Meredith, swear they never received a letter. Others say they did, and they’re just trying to live with the fleeting inconvenience.
“They told us three to four weeks ago it was going to take place,” said Hawthorne Street resident Dale Bolger. “It’s a little bit inconvenient, but it’s something that had to be done. It’s just a challenge to work with it.”
Residents on other streets were less enthusiastic.
Kathy Eddy of Marseilles Avenue said she was without water for hours on Sept. 20, and she suspects the repairs are to blame for damaging a water heater and flooding the carpet in her rented home.
“They said they left notes on the doors, but I don’t know if they did,” Eddy said. “I just think the whole thing could have been done a little bit better. I’ve never gone through this before, so I didn’t know what to expect.”
Eddy said her landlord is working with the city to see if they’ll reimburse for the damages.
Eric Gerhart of Hawthorne Street said his biggest complaint came last week when got home from work and wanted to take a cold shower but the water came out warm; the water was sitting in the above-ground pipes and had been heated by the sun.
“It’s all right, I guess,” Gerhart said. “What are you gonna do? It’s just an inconvenience for now.”
As the project runs its course, each home ends up receiving water through a spigot, where a pink, rubber garden hose trails away form the home and connects into a coupling in the temporary mains on each road.
Some of the couplings have busted off in recent weeks, said Eddy and her neighbors, triggering 30-foot geysers that make quite a spectacle. A perfect mess, but a necessary evil, contractors say.
Tim Leap, supervisor for the project’s Cleveland-based contractor, Utilicon Corp., said some folks get irate but most are understanding.
It takes about 30 minutes to repair 500 feet of water main, then two hours for the concrete to set. Most streets are without water for a maximum of eight hours, Leap said.
“We try to keep the water going as long as possible,” Leap said. “But it has to be done. Some of these lines are supposed to have a 6-inch diameter, and it’s maybe four inches.”
Elyria firefighters said they’ve experienced low water pressure from hydrants in the St. Jude area, as well as older neighborhoods on the city’s south side.
Snyder said some south-side neighborhoods are next, including a portion of Middle Avenue near Fuller Road and South Maple Street.
Contact Shawn Foucher at 653-6255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.