Aging water lines plague city

Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor
Submitted photo
Newcastle’s public works personnel worked throughout the night on
March 9 into the morning of March 10 to repair a water main break.
The break was reported at about 8 p.m. and the water was turned
back on by 5:30 a.m. The break did cause a late start for Weston
County School District No. 1.

Water issues have been plaguing Newcastle for some time, and according to the city’s public works supervisor, the most recent water main break resulted in a late start for schools in Weston County School District No. 1 on Friday, March 10. 


The leak leading to the late start on Friday was discovered Thursday night, shortly before 8 p.m., supervisor Greg Stumpff said. City crews worked throughout the night and had the leak repaired with the water back on by 5:30 a.m., although Stumpff noted that repairs do not always go this smoothly. 


“The leak was a lateral break in an AC pipe, (for) which we were required to replace over 10 feet of 6-inch broken main with a new piece of pipe,” Stumpff reported to the News Letter Journal. “This is a common type of pipe failure for the city public works water infrastructure. We average over seven leaks per year over the last 20 years since we started tracking our leaks.”


Information provided by Stumpff shows that the city has experienced an average of 7.7 waterline breaks a year over the past 20 years. The year 2019 had the greatest number of breaks at 27,  with the lowest number, zero, occurring in 2009. To date, in 2023, the city has had three waterline breaks.  


Nationally, one way of reporting leaks is by the number of breaks per mile of pipe, Stumpff said. With approximately 30.6 miles of water main in Newcastle, he said, the city annually has one leak in every 4 miles of pipe. 


“Some of the leaks from the past have been addressed and the water mains and services replaced. But with aging infrastructure, leaks can be common,” he said. “The majority of the water mains in Newcastle are over 65 years old, and the type of pipe has a life of 75 years.” 


With a significantly aging water and sewer infrastructure, the city is continuing to work on a master plan for infrastructure replacement, according to Stumpff. But, due to the cost involved with replacing both water and sewer lines, he said, the process is slow. 


“There are less grant opportunities than in the past, and the majority of the funding options are low-interest loans now. We are currently replacing the water mains from two wells that provide the majority of the water for Newcastle and adding a new well to expand capacity,” Stumpff explained. “We have been working this winter, when we can, on a water main replacement on First Avenue, with city resources. We have one water main replacement scheduled to begin construction in April (South Summit Avenue water improvement project) and just received a grant for a sewer main and lift station that we have a permit to construct for Delaware Avenue (water improvement project) and another water-sewer main replacement project (Seventh Avenue Water/Sewer improvement project) that we also have a permit to construct.” 



Funding for the last two projects has not been secured yet, and Stumpff said the city is still working on finding funding sources. 


Newcastle also has a new water master plan to update the old water master plan. Funding for updating the plan, Stumpff said, is coming from the Wyoming Water Development Office. 


Newcastle’s city crews have also worked to keep the city’s wastewater treatment facility working properly, along with several other water and sewer projects. One project, Stumpff noted, involved updates required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule,  including updating water meters to a radio-read meter system. According to, “on Aug. 4, 2022, EPA released Guidance for Developing and Maintaining a Service Line Inventory to support water systems with their efforts to develop inventories and to provide states with needed information for oversight and reporting to EPA.“


“Water leaks will continue to happen unless all of the infrastructure is new, which is unrealistic due to the cost, so the public works department will stay ready to address issues as they arise,” Stumpff said. “The public works department is trained to handle the issues, maintain a good stock of parts on hand and have the necessary tools and equipment. And, most of all, (we) have a great group of dedicated individuals willing to work regardless of the time of day.” 


 Private water leaks result in sewer forgiveness


In addition to city water main breaks, the city has recently found several water leaks at customer properties while reading meters for billing, said Greg Stumpff, Newcastle’s public works supervisor. 


“To be proactive, we call the customers to inform them about the problem when we find it. We also investigate the high-usage issues to help the customers. As part of the investigation, we look at whether the water entered the sewer,” Stumpff said. “Per ordinance, the city cannot forgive water used during a leak that is registered on the water meter. But what the city can do to help the customer is sewer forgiveness when the water does not enter the sewer.” 


In this instance, the public works department will recommend to the City Council that the city forgive the sewer charges. While Stumpff said he has not tracked the number of leaks on customer property this year, it appears to be trending up lately. 

City Clerk-Treasurer Stacy Haggerty said the City Council has forgiven $1,085.12 in sewer charges to date in 2023. 


News Letter Journal

News Letter Journal
14 W. Main St.
P.O. Box 40
Newcastle, WY 82701
Ph: (307) 746-2777
Fax: (307) 746-2660

Email Us