“I was all sweaty and dirty, and I wanted to go to town,” said Porter, a retired nurse. The irritating incident a couple of weeks ago was not the first.
Another time, her boyfriend was showering when he noticed the water pressure declining. Luckily, he had just enough water left to wash the soap and shampoo off before the pipes dried up.
Porter, who has lived in Jonathan Creek since 2004, said that about once a month, the main water pipe that serves her neighborhood breaks, leaving her and her neighbors without water for hours at a time — and the problem is not getting better.
“The last couple years it’s just been getting progressively worse,” Porter said.
Just last month, the water went out twice in a five-day period. That prompted her to start keeping track of the outages on her calendar.
The trouble seems to be old water lines, said Neil Carpenter, senior vice president of the Maggie Valley Sanitary District, the water utility that serves Maggie Valley and Jonathan Creek.
The pipes were poorly installed during the 1970s and are made of PVC, which is weaker than the material water pipes are comprised of today.
“They were put in somewhat substandard,” Carpenter said.
The utility has been gradually replacing sections of the water lines in Jonathan Creek and Maggie, but the money to do the last segment — from Utah Mountain to I-40 — is simply not there, Carpenter said. State grant funding that used to be available for such replacements has mostly dried up.
“The funding has just really gone away so we are really having to look at other opportunities now,” Carpenter said, adding that a rate increase is possible for water customers.
Once funding comes through, that final section of PVC piping will be swapped for more ductile iron pipes.
“It is much more suitable for the environment here in the mountains,” Carpenter said.
And although the Maggie Valley Sanitary District’s Board of Director plans to talk about possible funding options to pay for the project, the start date could still be a while away as the district waits for grant funds or its savings to accrue enough to cover the project.
“That could be years from now,” Porter said. “I kind of doubt it will be fixed anytime soon.”
The spot causing the most consternation lately is a section of the main water line near Hemphill Road. Water must be shut off from there to the rest of J-Creek to fix it, but is usually only out for a couple of hours, Carpenter said. Carpenter said there is no pattern to how often the breaks recur.
“It’s in spells,” Carpenter said.
Porter did applaud the sanitary district’s employees for their fast work to fix the pipe each time its breaks and said she would be willing to pay a little extra each month if eventually it meant she wouldn’t have to sporadically go without water.
“It’s just frustrating when you can’t depend on it to be there,” Porter said.