Under pressure: Is Marco's utility increasing water pressure to increase income?

City manager says 'no,' some residents remain skeptical

— While Marco utility leaders turn up the water pressure, some Marco residents are turning up the pressure on officials saying the city is beefing up their water bills.

City Manager Steve Thompson and Public Works and Utility Director Rony Joel report problems of meeting minimum state water pressure requirements, particularly in the estates area and say they are turning up the pressure at the plants to meet those needs.

Water pressure has been an ongoing problem on the Island in recent years, but skepticism of increasing the pressure with the intent of increasing income is a relatively new concern.

Marco resident Tarik Ayasun hasn’t yet returned phone calls for comment, however, in recent memos to Thompson, he indicated great concern over the issue.

“When I received my December water bill, I was in shock!” he wrote in the letter dated Friday morning.

Ayasun said he was out of town most of the billing period, and upon request of utility manager Jim Lang, Ayasun also confirmed with a plumber that he had no water leaks and confirmed with his landscaper that he had no irrigation malfunction.

“On Wednesday morning, 5 a.m., I was outside the house trying to get my paper. It was another shock. My sprinklers were like geysers,” Ayasun continued.

He reported that his sprinklers were shooting water onto Dade Court, Inlet Drive and to the neighbor’s house across the street.

Ayasun reported that after speaking with his sprinkler serviceman again, he learned that residents are contacting the sprinkler service company reporting an approximate 50 percent increase in water pressure causing burst sprinkler heads and other problems.

Rick Boynton, owner of Thompson Irrigation on Marco Island said he hasn’t heard about those problems.

“If anything, we usually get calls that there is no pressure ... Too much is better than not enough,” added the business owner.

Boynton recommends that if homeowners are experiencing too much pressure, which will add to water use and expense, that they can turn down their zone run times.

This reporter also attempted to contact other sprinkler companies on Island, including Collier Genie and S & S Sprinkler, but those contractors have not returned the phone calls as of print time.

Thompson, per information in his Weekly Update to council Thursday evening, is also aware of all of the issues.

“We do have properties close to falling below 20 psi (pounds per square inch) — the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) requirement,” Thompson reported.

Those requirements are needed for both fire suppression and use of second level or higher restrooms, he added.

“There has been a suggestion that the higher pressure is a deliberate attempt to generate higher consumption of water and higher revenues for the city,” Thompson wrote Thursday.

The city recently increased water and sewer usage rates by 9.5 percent and has reported the anticipation of future annual increases compounding to more than 30 percent in the next few years to accommodate declining income and escalating costs. Those future increases have not yet been approved by council.

“I have been very clear in my direction to city staff that (increasing water pressure to increase income) is not and will not be a consideration,” Thompson said.

There are projects that will need to be done to improve these water pressure issues, including a new water tank, new pipes and other improvements, he has reported.

Joel added that the utility committee reviewed and recommended approval of a four-year plan for these improvements.

“The increase (at the plant) from 75 psi to 78-80 psi is a short term solution. The current CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) and rate structure has a four year program for pipe upgrade of approximately $3.5 million in conjunction with the south water tank project that should be on line by mid 2011,” Joel said.

Over a month, the increase is about 2 to 5 percent in water-use, he added.

“When the improvements are completed, we do anticipate that the reduced water pressure will reduce water use by approximately 5 to 8 percent.

“When certain areas of the Island were developed, water pipes were installed to meet the demand at that time and in the near future. As the Island has developed, the demand has increased. To meet that demand through the same pipe, requires us to increase the pressure,” Joel said.

While it’s not on the agenda, council members said they anticipate broaching the issue at their meeting scheduled 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

Have an experience on the issue you can share, contact reporter Kelly Farrell, 213-5335, or email kfarrell@marconews.com.

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Comments » 23

marco97 writes:

Do what we did, lower your water pressure at the street or at the shut off outside your house. I did this a few months ago when they first raised the water pressure and my bills went way down. also when our family takes a shower we don't run the water at full speed and find we can take longer showers and use less water.

ajm3s writes:

You could install a pressure regulating (reducing) valve at the street connection to your home. It would require a licensed plumber to install. The valve is then set to a given pressure reading; this is normally done in commumities for homes that experience high pressure/high flow.

You can buy a simple pressure gauge that attaches to your outside spigot. Open the valve to obtain a pressure reading if you wish to monitor.

In essence, some Marco Island water supply lines may be undersized given Mr. Remy's statement, if some areas require increased flow. Hydraulics 101.

EdFoster writes:

So, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Joel have "projects that will need to be done to improve these water pressure issues, including a new water tank, new pipes and other improvements." The project is envisioned as "a four year program for pipe upgrade (and cost) approximately $3.5 million."

Earlier, Mr. Thompson reported that many water mains are clogged with debris and broken in places. That sure could explain why Mr. Joel must raise the water pressure at the head end to supply adequate water at adequate pressure at the far end.

Question: why wasn't this discovered BEFORE the city bought this albatross?

Question: why weren't the water mains replaced when the streets were torn up to install the STRP?

Question: the STRP cost many tens of millions to install. How can the water mains be replaced for a mere $3.5 million?

Question: will the city streets be torn up over another 4-year period to install new water lines? When will the construction ever stop?

Question: unlike old sewer mains, most of which are ordinary concrete because they are not pressurized, the old water mains are made of asbestos-cement pipe which, albeit brittle and prone to cracking if the ground shifts as it doees on a tidal island, can withstand high pressure. What assurance do residents and visitors have that the city (and its contractors) will follow EPA procedures when removing the old pipe? They sure didn't when removing the water mains under Collier Boulevard!

These problems should have been forseen BEFORE the city bought the utility company and the repair costs factored into the amount paid for the company. Florida Water must have known what a disaster they were selling the city ... why didn't the city know what a disaster they were buying? In its rush to buy the utility and keep it out of the hands of a "foreign" city up north (which was unlikely to happen), the city bought a pig in a poke, and instead of rates being stabilized as promised, Marco's utility rates are going through the roof. It is well to remember that the prime mover behind the purchase was Councilman John Arceri. It's time he stood up and took responsibility for buying this pig.

Ed Foster

MarcoJimbo writes:

John Arceri? Do you mean Larry the council candidate Magel's mentor? The same John Arceri Larry served with on the Utility committee to give us the 9.5 percent rate hike we got stuck with? That John Arceri? Okay, just checking.

waterboy4u writes:

Wow! Finally figuring out you have water pressure problems? Install a pressure regulating master valve on your sprinkler system, set between 35-45psi, or turn on largest sprinkler zone, put pressure gauge on #4 test valve on your backflow preventer, throttle back the sprinkler shut off valve. Only problem with that is the next time the system runs, the city may only provide half the pressure, it was never the same in my 16 years I was there. Most irrigation companies installing sprinklers on Marco, could not pass a basic hydraulics course, the licenses have been grandfathered in. If you are building a new home on Marco, contact me at mike@hatcherlandscape.com, and I can work with you on a professional design. By the way the owner of Thompson Irrigation is Rick Boynton. Don't make me come back there!
Michael Thompson
Certified Irrigation Contractor
former owner-Thompson Irrigation
Certified Backflow Testing/Evaluation
Hernando,Mississippi

Fossil writes:

Are the people in charge of maintining and planning for upgrades and modernization of our facilities, infrastructure and utilities so incompetant? Why can't Rony Joel simply sit down and figure out how much money he will require for the next ten years? It seems everytime he completes a multi-million dollar project, he comes up with another. It is also peculiar that when extra or unspent money is found, Rony is the first to come up with must do projects Projects that cannot wait and if not an emergency, rising costs become the motivating factor. I think that either he knows how s----- our City Council is or he has no confidence in their ability to prioritize the budget. Maybe it's time we get a real engineer who knows how to develop schedules, project costs and is more transparent and disciplined. Our city also needs to get some better candidates for City Council to reign in these costs. A council willing to do some research and ask intelligent questions of the hired help. We also should probalby stop filling vacancies on advisary committees with the same bodies. The ones we have had seem to leave all the decision making processes to the hired help. Everything can't be an emergency, can it?

getreal239 writes:

How come so many Marco homes are having pipe leaks after the city comes in and changes the pressure? Countless home owners have had to repipe their homes, spending thousands of dollars! This is done while the home owners are at work, with no notification it was done. One home owner reported that they had leaking under their foundation for five days before they heard water running, even though they were not using any. What is going on?

bigdog1970 writes:

Hey ajm3s, why should I have to purchase a pressure regulating valve? The city water department should install one when they install the meter.
And I hate to say this, for once I agree with Assyun. With my sprinklers (6 zones for 45 min. each zone)only on for one day a week, confirmation by a plummer that I have no leaks under or in the home, and with the water department employees standing there scratching thier heads it was confirmed that we had no leaks. Clueless Lang could not explain why my water bill was $150.00 higher.
Is this another scam by Thompson and his puppets?

ajm3s writes:

in response to bigdog1970:

Hey ajm3s, why should I have to purchase a pressure regulating valve? The city water department should install one when they install the meter.
And I hate to say this, for once I agree with Assyun. With my sprinklers (6 zones for 45 min. each zone)only on for one day a week, confirmation by a plummer that I have no leaks under or in the home, and with the water department employees standing there scratching thier heads it was confirmed that we had no leaks. Clueless Lang could not explain why my water bill was $150.00 higher.
Is this another scam by Thompson and his puppets?

Don't you want it to work properly? I would be concerned if the city installed regulators. I am a smaller government advocate; I am more comfortable when the city does less for me. Consider this: was there an advisory that the pressure was going to be raised from Lisa Douglass, Information Service Manager or whoever is responsible. Maybe I missed the memo from the City Manager Weekly Update.

waterboy4u writes:

The leaking could be caused by friction, water pipes are too small for the pressure and flow, exceeds recommended velocity, the friction actually will burn a hole in the pipe.

autoparts writes:

in response to bigdog1970:

Hey ajm3s, why should I have to purchase a pressure regulating valve? The city water department should install one when they install the meter.
And I hate to say this, for once I agree with Assyun. With my sprinklers (6 zones for 45 min. each zone)only on for one day a week, confirmation by a plummer that I have no leaks under or in the home, and with the water department employees standing there scratching thier heads it was confirmed that we had no leaks. Clueless Lang could not explain why my water bill was $150.00 higher.
Is this another scam by Thompson and his puppets?

Mr. Big Dog, If I assume your stated settings are correct,then you would in fact have over a $150.00. 6 zones at 45 min. would equal 270 min of run time. This would be 4860 to 5400 gallons each time your irrigation runs. Using 4.3 weeks per mo. would be 20,898 to 23,220 let's add 4500 for personal use and we have approx. 26,000 gallons. If your home is a tier 2 home your water cost alone would be $103.48. When the base fees and sewer are added, it would equate to over $184.00. This is including the 14% upgrade/street fee. Give me a call, perhaps I can advise you how this can be reduced. Clueless Lang

happy6 writes:

bigdog....45 minutes per zone is way too much....change time to 15-20 minutes because after that the water just runs off.

waterboy4u writes:

Set up a rudimentary cycle and soak-set 2nd start time same as 1st, set water budget @50%, sprinklers will run 1/2 the time set, then repeat itself--10-15 min on sprays, 30-35min on rotors-total, should suffice, you will be surprised at how well this works, we service over 300 properties monthly, and all our timers are set this way
I would also suggest to all homeowners a smart or weather based controller, these have been out for about a year, I have used and field tested these and have realized water savings from 30-50% on all properties, it is the only way to go, especially living where water rates are high to begin with
contact me at mike@hatcerlandscape.com for more info on these controllers

waterboy4u writes:

some reference-maximum safe flow through type K copper, velocity should not exceed 5 fps, 1/2"=3gpm,5/8"=5gpm,3/4"=6gpm,1"=12gpm

ajm3s writes:

I got the memo from City Manager Weekly Update, there is a hyperlink error. "This week's City Manager's Weekly Update is now online. Click Here" does not lead you to the memo. Instead, go to the line below for previous weekly reports and you will be directed to next page where you can choose (click) on Jan 14. I miss the old days when IT was simpler and reliable.

MrBreeze writes:

The problem with the water mains are brittle and settling of earth. Marco Island water mains are very shallow due to no freezing ground conditions. The are new concepts to re-line old water mains with a poly liner that saves millions of dollars because of very little excavation needed and using the old main pipe. This type of re-line would probally work good on the island.

As far as "copper" water lines go, I have seen the leaking pipe and it has been caused by the pipe walls thinning. This has tried to be explained away by the city but I do not buy into it as I have been around water piping and house plumbing for 28 years and "never" seen copper wear out. Copper by nature will flex and freeze or thaw before bursting. The walls becoming thin has been said to be caused from water treating procedures such as additives or reverse osmosis. I believe the R/O as it charges the Ions in the water causing the water to basically wear the tubing thin the holes are produced. This is why most new construction today use "pex" poly line for water supply. I would only use pex on Marco Island after seeing the copper. I have worked on copper over 100 years old and it is still like new and that is true for many, many buildings.

Water pressure is up to the city to regulate. Most city systems run 60 psi. The homeowner should not have to buy "regulators" throttle down main valves and find thier own fixes. It is up to the city to deliver water on a fixed pressure, that is what we pay the water bill for. I would say if the pressure is turned up higher that you will see more copper fail, more solder joints fail, more sprinkler failures. The city needs to step up and cure the problem. I agree, most times you install water and sewer together then people have a "new and reliable" utility system.

EdFoster writes:

Mr. Breeze,

Relining the old pipe will reduce its diameter and exacerbate the problem. Sewer pipes can be relined because they are not under pressure except for the force mains. Marco's water system was poorly designed to begin with. It's a one-way system that dead-ends at the end of each feed instead of a loop system in which there is no "end," the line loops back to the source, and water can flow either way. A loop system can be operated at lower pressure and the pressure remains relatively constant everywhere in the loop. With a one-way system, pressure at the front end has to be high enough to force water all the way to the end and still provide sufficient water at sufficient pressure at the end of the line to meet state requirements. So the pressure starts off high at houses near the water source and drops as you go down the line.

Question: why wasn't this known when the City bought the utility? Mr. Arceri claimed to be an experienced utility executive and the council believed whatever he told them. (He's a nice guy and people have a habit of believing his misinformation! Think of all those condo dwellers who believed him when he said that their rates wouldn't go up provided they elected people who would finish the STRP!) Of course, Mr. Arceri came from Con Ed, the NYC power utility notorious for poor service and high rates. Don't believe they have anything to do with New York's water/sewer operation so Mr. Arceri didn't pick up any experience in those areas from his past employment. Guess that excuses his misinformation.

Ed Foster

lauralbi1 writes:

Mr. Breeze: If you are interested, please go to City Hall and read the report from the Consultant hired by the City to evaluate the UYtility and it's pipes, plants and conditions prior to entering into negotiation. It is very interesting and formed the basis for the lower offers that the City made.
Do not listen to Mr. Foster. He has very limited goals, no longer lives on the Island, attempts to satisfy his ego every time he writes something and he and his organization cost the City hundreds of thousands of dollars that was wasted to satisfy the very ego I referred to earlier.
But, irrespective of all this verbage, the report is good reading and shows the City used good judgement and was very prudent in their acquisition.
In fact, the problems we are having were anticipated and reflected in the price the City paid.
I prefer to deal with facts, as I am sure you do also.
Ed Issler

ajm3s writes:

I made a comment earlier in this blog that the City of Marco Island website is a bit suspect. Now if you click "This week's City Manager's Weekly Update is now online. Click Here"; it will direct you to Marco Island Rentals.com. Is it me or is IT decaying as we speak. I do not mean to be critical but Lisa Douglass, is the Information Service Manager. Is she certified to oversee such operations.

EdFoster writes:

Mr. Issler,

Essentially I quote your two heros: Rony Joel and Bill Harrison. Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Ed Foster

marco97 writes:

ajm3s that's funny, who runs the city's web site? maybe next week the link will go to Joey's pizza or some other business.
Ed Issler get on this stat.

MrBreeze writes:

Mr. Foster taking into your comments about the "dead end" water pressure system, I would comment that a combination of a portion of new water main for the open looping and a reline for the rest of the system might be a responsable way to solve this problem with less costs. The portion of our water bill that is set aside for main replacement should be available since I assume the water mains were installed in 1969 by Deltona Corp.

Water main pressure and volume are two different features of moving water through the system. It does not always take more pressure to move and make more volume. Diameter of mains, depth of mains, turns and degree offsets are all part of the big picture of moving water. Relining does not always cause higher pressure as prior to relign the main is inspected by camera, dips and breaks repaired and sometimes a boring tool is run through the pipe for sizing.

I still say it is up to the City of Marco Island to deliver the water customers fair pressure and volume no matter where the customer falls in the system. If this were a private business I would believe legal action would have been already been sought out.

EdFoster writes:

Mr. Breeze,

I fully concur that it is up to the City of Marco Island to deliver water customers fair presure and volume no matter where the customer falls in the system. Perhaps it is less expensive to "complete the loop" and to reline the pipes than to replace them. That's for the experts to decide (if you can find any experts!)

My main point is that these factors should have been recognized PRIOR to buying the utility and that the cost of ALL needed repairs and upgrades should have been factored into the price paid for the utility. Mr. Issler is correct that the city did get some "discount" from the asking price and set up a maintenance reserve, but it was insufficient by far to cover the costs of the maintenance and upgrading needed to have a properly operating facility. That is the fault of the City Council (driven by Mr. Arceri) and the City Manager who made the purchase. Unfortunately, you are all paying now (and will continue to pay in the future) for their errors through unreasonably high utility rates. Just one man's opinion who was on the island at the time and watch the shenanigans that were going on.

Ed Foster

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