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Salem faces critical water system valve failure

Jul 10, 2023Jul 10, 2023

Salem Public Works Director Annette Sola says a critical underground valve at the water treatment plant has failed and repairs are needed within a few weeks to keep the plant operating.

Sola outlined the problem at Monday night's city council meeting.

"We are not sure if its sheered off at the top or actually broke. It is broke in the closed position which is allowing us to continue to make water at the moment, but we will run out of the ability to store that water in the next 2-3 weeks."

Sola says with the valve stuck they cannot move sediment to the lagoon. She notes repairs will not be easy.

"Its about 20 feet long and about 20-25 feet deep and its tight. There is a very small area. We will have to excavate and move dirt off site to even get down to it with it being that deep. They will have to use cages for it for safety."

Sola says there are three original valves in the same area and she wants to replace all three while the area is dug up to hopefully prevent future failures. She added the failure was nobody's fault and just happened.

The water plant will have to be shut down for a couple days while the valve replacement is taking place and Sola has her fingers crossed no problems develop.

Sola approached three contractors. One said they wouldn't touch the project for under $100,000 and another wanted $175,000. The third, John Trotter, who is already in Salem doing the South Broadway waterline replacement project, said he could do the work for $30,000 to $40,000.

Sola says Trotter would have to be pulled off the waterline project for about a week to complete the emergency repairs. The city council agreed to have the work done with a cap of $40,000 without further city council approval.

Sola reported the waterline replacement project is moving forward with a boring under the shuttered CSX railroad tracks scheduled for Tuesday.