High water pressure straining plumbing and pocketbooks, subdivision residents say

As S. Carroll struggles with lack, Diamond Hills copes with abundance

July 11, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

While South Carroll, the county's most populous area, struggles with a water shortage, neighbors to the north face the opposite problem.

The residents of Diamond Hills, just outside Westminster, say they have too much water.

And too much of a good thing is bad for the plumbing and bad for the checkbook.

"I replaced my water heater a few years ago because I thought it was leaking," said Ray Kerr, who was one of the first to move into the subdivision, off Kate Wagner Road south of the city limits, in 1994. "It turns out that wasn't the problem at all. The problem was the water pressure. It's too high. I wasted $400 fixing something that wasn't broken."

Kerr is not the only Diamond Hills homeowner contending with high water pressure.

As a board member of the Diamond Hills Homeowners Association, he's been tracking the neighborhood's water troubles the past three years, scribbling copious notes in a well-worn binder.

His periodic entries show that more than a dozen families in the upscale community of Colonial homes, which tap into the city's public water system, have had to dole out hundreds of dollars to fix plumbing problems.

The force of the water coming into the homes in Diamond Hills is often four times greater than their pressure-relief valves can handle, the residents say.

Several neighbors have been forced to dig up their front yards and repair failing pipes, while others have had to replace the pressure-relief valves on their water systems. The devices, which are designed to regulate water flow, gave out after years of strain.

"It's just crazy," said Karla Moore, who lives on Colvilla Drive, several blocks from Kerr's home on Colonel Joshua Court. "The toilet in my powder room broke last week. No sooner did my husband fix it, and our other two toilets broke. They just kept running.

"The plumber couldn't figure out what was wrong," Moore added. "Then it dawned on me. Several of my neighbors have had problems with their pressure-relief valves. So I asked the plumber to check ours, and sure enough, that was the problem."

It cost $90 to install a new valve, an expense that Moore expects to pay again in two to three years.

By law, homeowners must cover the cost to remedy problems caused by high water pressure.

The city code states, "Any owner requiring reduced water pressure shall do so through pressure-reducing valves, to be furnished and installed at the owner's expense, on the outlet side of the meter ahead of the top and drain valve."

Said Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works: "We can't guarantee a certain water pressure. There are different pressure zones throughout the city. Some people say it's too high, some say it's too low. Others say it's just right. It really depends on where you are in the city."

Westminster provides water to more than 7,000 customers.

The booster station that serves Diamond Hills was built as a joint city-county project in the 1980s to correct low water pressure problems in the area. In addition to about 200 homes in Diamond Hills, the Hook Road station provides water to the Campus Heights subdivision and several nearby schools, including Westminster High and Friendship Valley Elementary.

No one has reported water pressure problems to the city, Beyard said.

Kerr and other Diamond Hills residents continue to search for a way to resolve their water problems without creating new ones.

"We want the water pressure reduced, but we certainly don't want to have the kind of problems that the people in the Freedom District are experiencing," said Kerr, referring to South Carroll's water shortage. "We'd like to find a balance. We don't want the water pressure to be too high or too low."

In South Carroll, residents have endured three consecutive summers of restrictions on outside water use. Water system improvements are planned but won't be completed until next summer.

Pub Date: 7/11/99

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