Town of Monterey Facing Emergency Water Issues
“What we have is just basically a perfect storm hit to totally go against us.”
That is Monterey Town employee Mike Isles describing the circumstances which have brought on a declared state of emergency for the town due to ongoing water issues.
At an emergency meeting called by county emergency services coordinator Harley Gardner Saturday evening at the town office, Mr. Isles explained to the town council and others in attendance the findings to date on the situation, which has essentially left the town without water. He noted that representatives from the Virginia Rural Water Association had been on site the last two days, helping search the system for leaks. While several were located, they were not deemed as a significant amount to explain the loss. It was estimated there could be 6-7 leaks, but the exact amount is not known. Of greater concern was the discovery that the aquifer located at well number 1, located at the 220 entrance to the fairground, may be dry. As Mr. Isles was preparing to test the water at that location he found that the pump was pumping air, even though the water meter was still being turned, and there was no outward indication that water was not flowing. This pump has apparently been running non-stop for two weeks, which it was not designed to do, and may have pumped the aquifer dry and was putting air into the system – there is no estimate on how long it would take to re-charge the aquifer.
This is the main well on the system, and without it, capacity is only built from the two other wells, which are not enough to serve the system. Well number 3, located near the Highland Medical Center, produces approximately 60,000 gallons a day, which Mr. Isles noted was a rate which had been declining. The motor for this pump was replaced last November. There is also a well number 2 at the Hevener farm on Route 250 west of town, which produces approximately 6,000 gallons.
The system has two large water tanks for reserve capacity, one 75,000 gallons and one 225,000 gallons. However, this capacity was lost in the last several weeks due to major leaks in the system, one which was fixed in front of the post office, and one which was caused by the weight of equipment that Highland Telephone Cooperative was using for a communications bore, which separated two water lines.
Roanoke Pump has been contacted to assess the situation, and was expected to arrive within the next two days. They may recommend that the pump and plumbing within well number 3 be replaced, in which case, water would be completely shut off for 24-48 hours.
The loss of water comes at a critical time, with the return of students to school scheduled for August 21st, and the Highland County Fair scheduled for the end of the month, which are the two biggest draws on the system under normal circumstances. The system serves 275 connections.
Mike Guzo, from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management was in attendance at the meeting to help coordinate needed resources that are available now that Mr. Gardner has declared an official state of emergency. Drinking water is available at the Monterey Town Office during business hours, from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. After hours, it is available at the entrance to the Highland County Sheriff’s Office. Non-potable water is available 24/7 from a trailer at the town parking lot – this is self-serve, and containers must be brought to the site. Showers are available at the Highland Recreation Pool Complex from Noon until 10:30 pm.
The meeting ended with a closed session to discuss personnel. As an update to this story since its original airing, the Monterey Town Council will now be holding an informational meeting on the water emergency at the Highland County Courthouse at 7:00 pm on Monday, August 14th.