KENNEWICK — Kennewick Irrigation District customer complaints typically start flowing as soon as the water does in early April, but this year, the flood of gripes is a high tide.
Colleen Storms, KID treasurer, told the board this week that office staff have been fielding hundreds of calls from customers irked about broken risers, failed pumps and no water.
There were 900 complaint calls Monday alone, Storms told the board at its bimonthly meeting. Fortunately, KID recently had a new telephone system installed, which has made it easier to route callers to the correct employee.
KID's outage reports as of Tuesday showed 330 trouble spots among a customer base of 22,000 customers.
Chuck Freeman, district manager, did not have information about how many customers were affected by outages, but a review of the list of affected pressurized service areas showed more than 1,300 KID customer properties without water.
Two of the biggest areas with no water were Hansen Park, with its more than 400 customers, and Willowbrook Heights at Breckenridge, which had 245 customers affected.
The outage list identified 37 trouble locations with 27 of them involving pressurized service areas. There also were 10 private line areas, but there was no information about how many customers were affected.
Seven crews were responding to trouble spots Tuesday, Storms said. But the number of complaints was beginning to diminish by Wednesday, said Con Higley, assistant operations manager.
"We've got six crews working until 8 p.m. (Wednesday) replacing broken valves and fixing problems on the main line," Higley said.
Freeman said the new phone system has helped employees answer calls quicker, and with direct phone access available to internal numbers, the front desk isn't overwhelmed.
The onslaught of complaints also has shown that a new design valve used last year to replace those broken in Olmstead subdivision proved itself freeze-proof over the winter.
About 100 of the new valves installed this past year survived zero-degree weather without one failing.
Freeman said the new design valves will be used as replacements on all freeze-damaged valves in the future, which will reduce ongoing issues with cold weather and water valves.
Keith Martin, manager of the Columbia Irrigation District, said the start of water typically brings no more than 150 to 200 complaints, but this year the CID is seeing trouble with decades-old buried concrete distribution pipes, particularly in older sections of Kennewick.
"Our canal portion of delivery has been great this year," Martin said. "It is functioning better with all the winter work we did."
The CID has about 10,000 customers and 42 miles of canals.
"I think we're in pretty good shape," Martin said.