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Zion Crossroads Water System Communication Device Failure


Douglas Smith, Chairman




August 2, 2019


Contact: Louisa County Water Authority

23 Loudin Lane, Louisa, Virginia 23093

(540) 967-1122





LOUISA, VIRGINIA – The Zion Crossroads water system is supplied by six public utility or commercial wells permitted by the Virginia Department of Health to supply 587,000 gallons per day (gpd). The wells are used in a rotation of one or more at a time to supply the needs of the service area. The wells usually run 3-6 hours at a time for 12-14 hour in a 24 hour period. The only treatment for the well water is sodium hypochlorite for disinfection. Once disinfected, the water is pumped into the distribution system for customers use. The elevated storage tank is filled to a specific level to ensure adequate quantity, pressure and availability for fire suppression.


Beginning on July 20, 2019 and continuing into the start of the next week, Louisa County Water Authority (LCWA) began receiving complaints of water that appeared white, milky and/or brown. Following the initial complaint call through the remainder of the event, LCWA investigated the quality of the water and cause of the discolored water.  


LCWA staff found a radio communication failure in the system that controls the pumping intervals and tank level of the system. This failure caused a single well to be pumped for an estimated 21 hours straight rather than the normally pumped 3-6 hour cycles. Although the single well was never pumped dry the lower than normal water levels caused sediment and air to enter the distribution system. The sediment caused the brown water and the air caused the white or milky water. The failure of the radio communication system also allowed the elevated storage tank to fill above the set point, creating more pressure on the system than normal. The higher pressure levels contributed to the white or milky appearance of the water. Chlorine residuals remained in the normal range and although not astatically pleasing at no time was the water unsafe for use.


The well levels have recovered and LCWA staff continue to monitor the situation. The excessive heat and higher than normal usage contributed to the introduction of sediment and air into the distribution system causing the discolored water complaints. The Zion Crossroads water system produced 323,400 gpd over the weekend of July 20, 2019, more than 120,000 gpd above normal operating conditions. The wells, elevated water tank and communication system are working properly and the system is capable of providing water for the needs of the customers in the service area.


“I have directed staff to explore a new communication system, one that would provide alarms sooner, allowing staff to respond quicker to these types of situations in the future.” Doug Smith, LCWA Chairman.


“The Zion Crossroads customers did a wonderful job alerting LCWA staff to the problem, allowing us to address it as quickly as possible. My hope is that customers will continue to do their part to protect our water resources as we continue deeper into the high demand summer months. Everyone’s health and safety is our number one concern.” Pam Baughman, LCWA General Manager.