New York City is tackling a monumental plumbing leak 55 stories underground, beneath the Hudson River. The goal is to eliminate a leak in an aging tunnel that carries more than half of the Big Apple’s water supply over 85 miles from reservoirs in the Catskill Mountains.
The city is using a massive borer to carve through solid rock and create a 2.5-mile bypass tunnel to get around the worst of the leaks.
The $1 billion tunnel is expected to be completed in 2022, after which the entire Delaware Aqueduct will be closed down for several months in order to prepare for the diversion. If done properly, New Yorkers will never even know the diversion is taking place.
When leaks in pipes are suspected, plumbing companies typically use infrared cameras to locate the leak.
“Instead of visual images, the infrared camera shows different colors for different temperatures, creating a colored image of the pipe based on the temperature of its surface,” says Miranda home services. “Leaks show up clearly as a different color on the pipe, making them easy for our trained technician to spot.”
The Delaware Aqueduct, drilled during World War II, is showing signs of its age. It carries 600 million gallons a day, by gravity, from reservoirs in the Catskills to a holding reservoir north of the city line.
Some parts of the aqueduct are made of limestone, which is more vulnerable to corrosion. When first drilled, parts of the aqueduct were also filled with steel to counteract the corrosion. Lack of steel and foresight during the war left some parts of the system without steel. Leaks have formed in these gaps, allowing some water to burble up into the river.
About 3% of the aqueduct’s flow, or about 18 million gallons, escape from the pipeline each day.
Crews started digging the two massive access holes on either side of the river in 2013. The actual tunneling began last summer.
In 2022, draining of the aqueduct will allow crews to have time to reroute the water under the river and seal leaks 25 miles up the system.
The city will be reliant on water from reservoirs in Westchester County as well as the Catskill Aqueduct. The aqueduct will be shut down in 10-week increments, which will give crews the chance to clean out microorganisms that have created a “biofilm” layer that’s hindering water flow in the tunnel.