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(Lead Photo: Travis Van Wright Speaks About Containing Water Leaks)
BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer

The persistent battle to control citywide water leaks and secure placement of a new water metering system is being fought with a small employee crew that is normally overwhelmed but diligently working to solve the problem, say two Opelousas city officials.

City engineer William Jarrell III and Public Works Director Travis Van Wright told the Board of Aldermen Tuesday night that it has been a difficult matter for abating water and sewerage problems inside the city.

City Engineer William Jarrell III Provides Installation Update

Handling The Leaks

Van Wright estimated that there are 89 active water leaks scheduled for his four-man work crew to repair.

“We had 15 more today. We could come here tomorrow and we might get 30. We still have got a lot of work to do. What we have been trying to accomplish is getting into a rhythm and that will allow getting more things done,” Van Wright said during the meeting.

Van Wright said he anticipates handling the work load more easily as increased funding develops and the city is able to hire alternate personnel to deal with the multitude of leaks.

“Right now we have new people doing the job with very little pay, so you’ve got to appreciate all that they are doing. I answer all the calls and I personally visit everywhere where there are problems,” Van Wright added.

Van Wright pointed out that concerns with noises made by air blowing through water pipes has been most common in south Opelousas, but he discounted any major issues that the situation might cause.

Major water escapes around Auto Zone on South Union Street and others on Vine Street still represent major concerns, said Van Wright.

New Meter Installation

Jarrell acknowledged there are prevalent issues with completing the $2.1 million water meter installation project.

Many old meters were not replaced, while the placement of new meters creates ancillary issues as old water pipes break during the installation process, Jarrell said.

In addition, there have also been problems which Jarrell did not detail, connected with contractors hired by the city to handle the installations.

 “What we are seeing with the installation is what has been going on in the city over the years and bringing new things to light,” Jarrell said.

Jarrell added that he and the contractors are discovering instances where water lines and meters had been tapped at some point, presumably allowing residents to obtain free or reduced city water.

Mayor Julius Alsandor said the new metering system is the first for the city since 2005.

“We are changing as many (meters) as we can find. We will get it done. It will take some time,” Alsandor said.

Meanwhile Alsandor said city customers can monitor water usage by downloading the Eye-On-Water app which allows real time usage calculation.

“I spoke with a lady who had a complaint and we looked at her problem using the app. It showed she had water running at 2 a.m., so the problem was at home,” Alsandor added.