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Highland's water gets 'ice pig'

Innovative system cleans out water main in Milton

From left: Brad Gresham, Utility Service Group, Liz Hausmann, Fulton County Commissioner and Nick Ammons, Fulton County's Dept. of Water Resources. Aldo Nahed. (click for larger version)

Fulton County Water Department collects samples of to be tested at laboratory. (click for larger version)

WHAT'S ICE PIGGING? The ice pig is a semi-solid that is pumped like a liquid and flows through changes in diameter, bends and fittings without blockage to the water main and sewer line. The ice pig is pumped into and recovered from a hydrant at each end of the pipe section without excavation or modification to the hydrant.
May 31, 2014
MILTON, Ga. — When the housing market crashed, many built-out communities stalled.

One of these was the Highlands, a beautifully gated community of 64 new estate homes off Freemanville Road in Milton.

Water pipes sat dormant and largely unused for more than five years at the subdivision.

"Usually what we experience is a subdivision is built, people move in and they start using water and everything is fresh," said Nick Ammons, Fulton County's deputy director of water system maintenance. "But because it sat for a number of years, we don't know what was allowed to occur over that period fo time."

Late last year, the Fulton County's water system began to get complaints about the water quality at the Highlands subdivision.

"It could have been sediment that had gotten in there, or something else," Ammons said. "People said they were seeing stuff in their water."

On May 23, the county called on a new technology — "ice pigging" to clear up whatever had been clogging the water main.

"Bringing the ice out is more significant because it scrapes the walls of the pipe," Ammons said.

Experts from Utility Service Group, of Newnan, Georgia, were called to the large subdivision and asked to "ice pig" about 6,000 feet of the water main as a precautionary measure. The innovative concept is new for the county. The traditional way is flushing the water line.

Ice pigging, which cost about $12,000, involves an ice slurry going through a pipe to scour the inside of the line without causing damage to the interior of the pipe.

"It gathers more than pushes, that's part of the reason it's more successful than flushing," said Brad Gresham, regional water systems specialist for Utility Service Group.

Gresham said typically what comes out is iron, manganese and other things that accumulate.

Fulton County water system took samples back the lab to find out exactly what was in the water.

"If this proves successful, we'll come back and most likely do a number of additional neighborhoods," Gresham said.

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann said the use of the new technology to ensure residents have clean water supply is certainly welcomed.

"This is one of those subdivisions that sat for a few years and unfortunately this is a repercussion of a bad economy," Hausmann said. "We're trying to do all we can to get them the clean water they are paying for."

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