Ithaca, N.Y. — The “sleuth game” is over.

Ithaca’s Department of Public Works has discovered why the city suddenly and inexplicably started losing 600 gallons of water per minute — and then, just as suddenly and inexplicably, wasn’t.

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It turns out that the defunct Emerson Power Transmission factory on South Hill was the source of the leak, according to Erik Whitney, assistant superintendent for DPW.

Though the factory has long been out of commission, the buildings on the Emerson property are still being heated and maintained, kept in a “mothball state,” Whitney said.

On Tuesday, the property’s maintenance staff realized there was a leak somewhere. They shut off a few valves Tuesday night and, not realizing that the city was concerned about missing water, didn’t tell anyone.

They shut off the valves just as the city’s DPW was searching for what appeared to be a broken water main. As reported by The Voice, Ithaca’s DPW workers were then confused when that leak appeared to resolve itself.

By late Thursday, however, it became clear that whatever had caused the original leak was again a problem. Water was being lost once again — at a rate of .25 million gallons a day. The DPW was perplexed.

Then a few DPW meter technicians conducted readings and discovered that “one customer was using a lot more than they should,” according to Whitney.

DPW crews rushed to the area downhill from Emerson and found a big flow of water in the drainage systems. After talking to Emerson’s property maintenance personnel, the city confirmed that this was the source of the leak.

“They’re working on addressing their leak now,” Whitney said.

While there’s still work ahead to make sure the main is repaired and the water maintained, Whitney said he’s glad the mystery has been solved.

“It’s nice to know what it is because if you don’t know what it is you can’t address it,” Whitney said. “We were glad it wasn’t a leak in our system.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.