As part of its constant focus on providing safe, reliable and affordable drinking water to its 500,000+ consumers, OCWA—Central New York’s Water Authority—recently added new nighttime maintenance crews to cover its five-county service territory (Onondaga, Oswego, Madison, Oneida and Cayuga counties).

The crews will focus on several critical system integrity tasks, including:

1) leak detection (nighttime is the best time for this work as acoustical signals which represent small water leaks may be masked by normal customer usage, traffic noises, or other equipment during daytime hours);

2) valve and hydrant maintenance (including opening and closing valves and hydrants which could cause a disruption in service – doing this work at nighttime minimizes the number of customers affected by water shutoffs);

3) flushing of hydrants, dead end watermains and other areas for water quality purposes (watermain sizes are chosen to provide an adequate quantity of water to be flowed from hydrants for firefighting purposes.  Unfortunately, in dead-end watermain locations the sizing sometimes reduces water quality as the water used by the few customers allows the water age to increase.  Thus, OCWA crews routinely flush water from hydrants to draw fresh water into the pipes.  Conducting this work during the night minimizes the negative impacts associated with this important work, including short term discolored water, lower pressure and in some cases disruption of services); and

4) making repairs to the system (OCWA strives to ensure that water is available when a majority of its customers are rising in the morning and getting ready for work).

Most of the time OCWA crews will arrive in an area, check the valves and hydrants or open the hydrant and check the water quality and move on to another street or neighborhood without anyone ever knowing they were there.  Nighttime crews are instructed to be sensitive to the fact that people are sleeping and to try to be as quiet as possible and to minimize disturbances, but sometimes they must flush the water longer, or they find that a valve isn’t working properly or a hydrant needs more attention than others.  In these cases they spend more time in an area and may make some noise in order to correct the problem in a timely manner.

OCWA also completes some maintenance projects during the overnight hours to minimize water disruptions.  Work that would otherwise require a school, daycare center, doctor’s office or large commercial/industrial facility to close if they were without water for a few hours is scheduled for our nighttime crews.

OCWA crews are also available at night to make unexpected repairs.  If a watermain or hydrant breaks during the night, crews respond and work diligently to get the water turned back on by the time most residents are getting ready for work or school.  Many times residents don’t even know that OCWA made a repair and they are able to go on with their regular routine.

OCWA apologizes for any inconveniences that our crews make, but customers hopefully realize that a water utility’s work never stops and nighttime maintenance is needed to continue providing a safe, reliable and affordable water system.