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Bullhead by the Horns

Arizona pumps, wells stopped due to motor issues; maintenance comes to aid

In what could be viewed as a microcosm of the country’s widespread infrastructure issues, an Arizona utility encountered a bevy of shortcomings with its pumps, wells, and other components during a recent review of its water systems. The resulting actions serve as a reminder that routine maintenance is not a thing of the past, but remains highly valuable for everyday operations.

Bill McMillen of the Mohave Valley Daily News first reported that Bullhead City, Az., city officials discovered extensive deficiencies to pipes, mains, wells, and pumps as part of a canvass of EPCOR Water‘s assets in the 40,000-person community. EPCOR provides water service to approximately 16,000 service connections, serving a large portion of Bullhead City in Mohave County, according to a 2020 EPCOR Water Quality Report released by the company.

An EPCOR Water technician works on Bullhead City, AZ systems. The utility and city have a fruitful working relationship but discovered issues with equipment recently due to a motor failure.—EPCOR photo

“We’re finding more problems than we anticipated,” Bullhead City Utilities Director Mark Clark told McMillen in a January 4 article. “We’ve had three wells go out on us. We never thought we’d have three wells go out in four months. That’s a lot. You don’t typically go through that. You can go years without a well going out and here we’ve had three in four months.”

The damages from one emergency repair bill alone amount to approximately $183,000 dollars and are expected to grow as the city continues to diagnose. That bill was required to bring a well back to working condition; and the root cause of all four well issues was pinpointed as a single motor failure over 500 feet below the surface. Clark cited the difficulty of addressing problems this far beneath the surface, which are oftentimes only alerted once customers report a drop in pressure or a noticeable decrease in amperage. Then, officials and maintenance crews essentially have to work backwards to address the problem.

Submersible pumps generally have a finite service life of around five to seven years, however, the last one of those pumps was replaced in 2019, per EPCOR records.

Ultimately the city, with the help of Empire Pump Corp., fixed the issue, but this story serves as a prime example of the importance of routine and preventative maintenance.

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