If you drove by the Webster County Courthouse over the weekend, you may have been surprised to see a major excavation project on the buildings northeast corner.
County maintenance workers discovered evidence of a leak in the courthouse’s ground-source heating and cooling system, and members of the county's road crews were instructed to dig around and find it.
"It was a maze," said Webster County Commissioner Dale Fraker. "Our backhoe operator from the roads department did a masterful job."
Even so, on Monday, the leak still had not been located. The company that installed the system had told the county officials that it was necessary to dig to find it. "They said just look until you find water," said Commission President Paul Ipock.
And the search continues.
County Clerk Stan Whitehurst said that the buidling's maintenance person noticed that the pump was making bad noises and that the system was not maintaining pressure.
Ipock explained that the geothermal heating and cooling system is complex. It is fed by two 4-inch lines that branch off into 30 wells that are each fed by two 1-inch lines. The leak could be anywhere in that system. Many of the lines are located 30 to 48 inches under the surface.
The system is about 30 years old, but it is inexpensive to operate, according to Ipock.
Whitehurst said that the Department of Natural Resources offered the county a low-interest loan to install the system in the early 1990s. "It was a new and innovative thing at that time," he said.
The system used the courthouse’s original galvanized pipe radiator lines inside the building, and outside it used new plastic pipe.
"This is the first problem with any of the new lines, new being 1992," said Whitehurst.