Miles Armstrong quickly got down to business, and he didnt like what Emilio Vasquez was showing him.
You have these long stretches of riverfront where theres no security fence, Armstrong said, looking at the maps, blueprints and diagrams that Vasquez, the veteran Water Utilities worker, sent to the Taus of everyone in the meeting. All these pipes that go nowhere. More pipes that go to these huge unguarded holding areas and tanks.
That was from a big sewer improvement project back in the 2010s and 2020s, Vasquez told him. The city spent the equivalent of 20 million Amerinotes to keep raw sewage from going into the water.
Armstrong winced as he looked at the maps on his advanced Tau, the handheld that had replaced what people 50 years earlier knew as computers. The water security expert remembered studying the federal government decrees that caused cities to spend billions of old U.S. dollars, only to drop the requirement after scientists invented clean fertilizers and pesticides that broke down before they reached the water. Combined with the fairly cheap and simple ways to treat sewage right at its source, with small sanitizers in homes and under manholes, sewage wasnt that much of a problem anymore.
But those holding areas Fort Wayne built a half-century earlier were indeed a problem. Armstrong just kept shaking his head. He knew about Fort Waynes growth and its ability to evolve with changing times, but he couldnt believe the city didnt have a better water security plan.
Armstrong looked at the data on water levels. The city was required to measure water levels at intervals of 20 yards, but too many of the meters had stopped working, and the measurements were imprecise.
Mayor, Im not out to cast blame, but you really must have working meters if you want to protect your water supply, Armstrong told Mayor Roberto Gonzalez.
Armstrong directed his Tau to converge water level and pipeline data with a map. He started with the St. Marys River, examining the flow from Grand Lake Saint Marys into the river. He looked at data from the villages of St. Marys, Mendon, Rockford and Willshire in Ohio, then Decatur. The river was losing a lot of water in the desolate area between Willshire and Decatur, stolen, no doubt.
Everything looked good, though, from the Kekionga Dam to the Foster Park Water Plant. From there to Swinney Park, Armstrong calculated the river lost about 6 percent of its volume to theft, a little above acceptable norms but not surprising considering the citys lack of water security.
But right past the Paulas Seafood Main Street Bridge, the volume plummeted.
Looks like its right around the railroad crossing, Vasquez said. Thats the Warsaw line that goes right through Wayne Robotics property.
Armstrong knew that water thieves liked pipelines under rail lines. Despite great advances in ground-penetrating radar, the hard steel on the railroad always messed with the radars. Plus, going undetected by radar had become an industry.
Running a pipe seven miles underground would be quite a challenge, Armstrong said.
But Wayne Robotics has millions of Amerinotes available to spend, said Sadie Palmer, the CEO of Kekionga Optics who had made one of her remote offices available for the meeting. Theyve got easy access to the railroad and the technical capability.
Im going to go run some tests, Armstrong said. Ill call you when I find something out.
He stood up and walked to the door.
Wait, Gonzalez said. How much are you going to charge us for your services?
Not nearly enough, he told Gonzalez, bumping into a woman scurrying down the hallway.
Excuse me, he said, looking at her name tag that read: Shelby Loredo, one in a million.