Ottumwa Water Works battling water main breaks

Ottumwa Water and Hydro have been battling water mains bursting because of the heat.

The summer heat has fortunately been obliging to much of the street maintenance in Ottumwa, except for the water mains.

The heat has caused many water main breaks around town in the past month. High temperatures heat up the water, which then causes the pipes to expand and break.

"[Also] with the very dry conditions we've had, the soils tend to be less compacted around the pipes," said Mike Heffernan, General Manager of Ottumwa Water and Hydro. "So that combination has led to several water main breaks over the past month. I don't have a count for July, but probably about twice as many as normal."

The breaks aren't contained to just one area and happen all around the city, but the most damaging breaks are the ones that happen on hills, when the water trickles down and damages the streets. Heffernan said in those situations, crews first have to fix the water main and then repair the street.

The heat has also taken a toll on working conditions for Water and Hydro employees, who sometimes have to work anywhere from a few hours to a few days outside to repair the mains.

As far as water levels go, Heffernan again emphasized that Ottumwa has a plentiful supply of water from Red Rock Lake. Even if the drought persists well into the fall, Heffernan said he does not foresee any kind of emergency situation.