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Crews search city for possible gas leaks in old galvanized pipes

By By Suzanne Digmon Staff writer
You may have noticed some of the city's workers out digging holes around town and wondered why your street is being destroyed. The utilities board is replacing some of the old gas lines that have deteriorated since their installation in the 1950s. Head of the utilities board Tom Wolfe said, "We do a leak survey downtown every year, and a complete survey every five years."
The board does a complete survey every five years, checking for galvanized lines all over the city. This year is one of the off years, so they are checking only the more "critical areas," such as churches, schools and other places where large numbers of people congregate.
"We have a project coming up… in 2004; we're going to replace all galvanized lines," Wolfe explained, "We ask the public to bear with us." Galvanized lines are those which have corroded or deteriorated over time, for example, a rusty metal pipe or a water main that has worn away.
Utilities employee Don Moye has been scanning the city with the Flame Ionization Detector, or "gas sniffer." This is a device the city purchased approximately one year ago to detect natural gas in places where it should not be. If gas is detected, utilities employees dig up the leaking metal line and replace it with a more reliable, durable plastic one. Gas lines will be replaced before water lines, most likely beginning in January 2004.
The same goes for galvanized water lines; "Within the next year," Wolfe added, "we should be starting a project to replace galvanized water mains in the southeast." Galvanized pipes and gas lines are a bothersome pest to consumers because their water is affected by lightning, thunder, earthquakes, and any other powerful force of nature. These events sometimes rattle chunks of the deteriorated pipes into the water that goes to residents' homes. Wolfe predicts the entire replacement to be done by spring.
Besides all the gas and water line replacement, the utilities board is replacing all water meters in Atmore. Instead of being read and recorded by hand, the new meters are scanned electronically to record the meter reading. This new technology allows for fewer errors in the board's records since the new meters read more accurately and store all information instantly. 75-80 percent have already been replaced.