Crumbling water lines are costing LaBelle

The $2.5 million price tag on the proposed upgrades does have some people in the small town of around 600 people concerned.

Interruptions in water service are a regular occurrence for LaBelle, Missouri.

Like many small communities, its dated water system cannot handle modern water needs.

Pieces of pipe from the current system show just how bad the water lines in LaBelle, Missouri have gotten.

The pipes that were put in decades ago were made of steel, now mostly rusted through leading to frequent breaks and leaks. LaBelle is just an example of what many small communities are seeing.

"In many cases small communities have water systems that were probably built 40 or 50 years ago just do not have the capacity for current water use that they're experiencing today." Mike Logston, the engineer working on LaBelle's project said.

Logston has been working with LaBelle since November to develop a new water system that will meet their needs, but the project has been in the works for years.

"I think the old lines just can't handle the need in the town anymore. So many more appliances use things and just the wear and tear on the old lines cause breaking and they have to do the boil orders." said Melody Whitacre.

While working for the Northeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission and Rural Development Corporation, Whitacre has seen several smaller towns deal with these issues. She will be doing the environmental review for LaBelle's proposed system, just one step in the lengthy process of replacing old lines.

"First we would evaluate the needs of the city, their water use, the volume that they would need. Then we conduct a hydraulic analysis of their existing system to find out where problem areas would be," Logston explained.

The $2.5 million price tag on the proposed upgrades does have some people in the small town of around 600 people concerned.

"They usually ask for grant money from the state of Missouri. Missouri ... sometimes the budget gets cut and there might not be as many available funds there," Whitacre explained.

When the new system is in place, LaBelle will see more reliability in water service, better water pressure, and possibly even a better ISO rating for home owners insurance. Right now, they're still trying to work out how to pay for it.

Several LaBelle residents expressed concern about the state of the current water system and the cost of replacing it, but did not wish to be named.