Wisconsin Water Utility Taps the History Line

Wisconsin Water Utility Taps the History Line
The Madison Water Utility (MWU) introduced its state’s first women’s tapping team at the Wisconsin Water Association convention in September.

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Pipe-tapping competition has been around for decades, testing teams’ strength, skill and speed, but this year history was made. The Madison Water Utility (MWU) introduced its state’s first women’s tapping team at the Wisconsin Water Association convention in September. 

The team had an initial run time of 4:35 and a second run time of 4:03, positioning them for national competition. 

The team came together after MWU employee Kara Jafferis saw other women’s teams compete at the AWWA’s ACE13 Conference last June in Denver. She was there for the Meter Madness Competition, in which she has taken part for years, finishing first at the Midwest Water and Wastewater Industry Expo in February with an error free time of 47 seconds. She was one of only two women competing in Meter Madness at ACE13. 

Amy Barrilleaux, MWU public information officer, says Jafferis came back from the show inspired to start a women’s pipe-tapping team, of which everyone is now proud. 

“Kara came back and emailed everybody in the utility to find who was interested in joining a women’s tapping team,” Barrilleaux says. “People stepped up from all across the utility including finance and community outreach. The cool thing is that it brings in women from departments across the utility. No one on the team does this type of work. None of them had ever tapped a pipe until they signed up for the team. 

“They had to really rely on our men’s team to learn what to do and how to do it. By the time they got together, they really only had a couple months to train and complete a run.” 

MWU’s men’s tapping team, Mad City Tappers, has been together for three years, competing locally and nationally. Four-person teams compete to see who can install a tap into a cement-lined, cast iron pipe the fastest. Mistakes like crimps, leaks, or safety violations add penalty seconds to the team’s final time. 

“This is not an easy process,” Barrilleaux says. “They have to put a copper service line into this big cast iron pipe full of water. Hand-drilling that bit into that pipe is hard and it takes a lot of precision and a lot of skill. They had a lot of work ahead of them.

“They have been so dedicated. I was there when they had their first and second run at the WWA competition. Everything came together in that one day, in that one moment. They put in some times that would be competitive nationally. It was just so great to watch. There was a huge crowd around, and all these people taking pictures. And our men’s team was there being super supportive and cheering them on. Everybody is just really proud.” 

Computer specialist Lori Suiter credits the men’s team for training assistance: “They’ve been so helpful in teaching us the procedures of when you need to do what, and then coaching us in our practices. It’s just been a great help.” 

The team’s next stop will be ACE14 in June 2014 in Boston, Mass. “They still have a little ways to go, but considering they’re so new and the next national competition isn’t until next year, hopefully they have time to get that time down even more,” Barrilleaux says. 

“They would really like to just place. It would be huge to be in the top three, and they’d like to get their time down to around 2:30. 

“I think it’s really gone a long way toward bringing the utility together because women from all these different departments came together and learned a whole new skill and then competed with it. I think the tapping phenomenon is about pride in what your utility does. It offers a special appreciation for what goes on in the field and you gain a lot of respect for the guys who do this every day.”


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