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Thames Water engineers ready to mend cracks – 24 hours a day
THEY often get the blame for many of the hold-ups on the roads but without them life would be far more chaotic.
Whatever the weather or time of day, the technicians of Thames Water will head out across the region to fix leaks and keep our water flowing.
The company receives hundreds of call-outs every year to fix leaks in a variety of locations, from farmers’ fields to busy main roads.
The firm is keen to get people in the town saving a million litres of water per day by 2014 under the Save Water Swindon campaign, which in turn could help minimise the stress on the network.
Mark Day, 50, has been a network service technician for more than 30 years and said despite all the updates in technology in that time it still comes down to old-fashioned skills.
“At the end of the day the best method we have for finding a leak which isn’t visible is to use our ears and listen,” he said. “The updates we have make it much easier to find the general area but we still have to listen for the exact point.”
“We used to have to go out at night and sit by valves to look at water usage. If it is excessively high, we knew there was likely a problem. Now there are sensors which can be used to monitor these valves on a computer.”
Another technician, Neil O’Sullivan, 27, who has only recently joined the team, agreed.
He said: “The best piece of equipment we have is the stethoscope to listen directly for the leak.
“If we know exactly where the leak is there is a lot less disruption.”
While many may think fixing a leak is simply a case of turning up and mending the broken pipe, the reality is far more complex.
Mark, Neil and the other technicians based in Highworth are on call 24 hours a day and cover an area stretching from Worcester to Marlborough.
Once the general location of a leak has been identified, several technicians use a correlator, which involves sending a detector down at two points so they can listen for its precise location.
An assessment then has to be done to decide on the level of disruption which will be involved in the repair.
Factors include the number of residents, the volume of traffic and any properties affected if the water has to be switched off.
More often than not, permission has to be gained from the local authority to close the road.
“If the water supply is going to be turned off, we do our best to make sure everyone is informed,” said Mark.
“We leaflet the houses and businesses to warn them and work is usually timed to cause minimum disruption.
“Unfortunately, there are sometimes emergencies and we don’t get the chance to let people know their water is about to be turned off. Most people are very good with us but sometimes people can get upset.
“The work always needs doing because, if it is left, damage can be caused or people elsewhere in the system can lose their supply.”
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