Snow daze

Water breaks, salt shortages irk local cities

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON MARTINS FERRY residents Dylan Hans, left, and Ringo Blackner, both 16, pause while on the way to their next snow-shoveling job on Tuesday. The Martins Ferry High School students said they have about 10-12 regular customers they shovel for after it snows.

MARTINS FERRY — Many local municipalities are struggling to keep up with the snowfall, freezing temperatures and water breaks — causing a bit of a snow daze across the Ohio Valley.

In Martins Ferry, Service Director Chris Cleary said his city and many others are waiting for new shipments of salt to arrive. Until it does, the crews are using what little salt they have left to concentrate on steep and hilly neighborhoods in the Purple City.

“We are struggling to get salt in,” Cleary said, noting the city contracted via the state purchasing program. “The main company is having trouble supplying all of us. We have orders we placed. It should have been filled. … That’s hurting us right now.”

Cleary noted he also put in a salt order with a smaller local company in an effort to get salt sooner, but he is waiting on that as well.

“We’re doing the hills and every intersection where we can. It’s like a triage unit right now. We’re taking care of the worst,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cleary said the city’s new garbage packer also is out of order. It needs a new part. Until it is working again, the city must use dump trucks for trash pickups. However, those same trucks are also used for salting and plowing, he noted.

Until the streets are clear, Cleary advises people to take their time driving.

“Take extra time and leave a little earlier, and drive a little slower,” he said. “You can get to where you want to go — don’t rush. It will be a lot safer.”

On Sunday, city water department employees worked all day and night to repair a 10-inch waterline on Madison Street.

“They ended up working 16 hours before they got it shut down. … The street is closed until further notice. The water was freezing everywhere — we lost a lot of salt into that. … It was a nightmare,” Cleary said.

Still, Cleary noted compared to some cities, such as Steubenville, Martins Ferry has not had as many winter waterline breaks as in the past.

Steubenville has been plagued with waterline breaks this winter. Water was restored to the downtown area of the city Monday night as the water department repair crew focused on a suspected leak in the Lincoln Avenue neighborhood. Utility Director Chuck Murphy said efforts to charge the high-pressure system in the downtown area were completed Monday evening and the low-pressure system was being charged in the overnight hours.

Murphy said the high-pressure system serves a small number of buildings in the downtown area, while a majority of residences are on the low-pressure system.

“I am cautiously optimistic at this point we will have all of the downtown back in water by today, and we believe we have isolated the leak at the 20-inch waterline that runs in the culvert on Lincoln Avenue and then under state Route 7 to the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel mill,” Murphy said.

The waterline breaks that created a disruption of service to downtown residents and businesses started Thursday night and left hundreds without water. Water buffaloes were set up at downtown sites by Friday afternoon, and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency sent bottled water to the city for distribution to invalid and elderly residents who were unable to get to a water buffalo.

Businesses and schools were closed and some churches canceled services Sunday because of the water emergency.

“We had our 11-man repair crew, along with water filtration personnel and supervisors, working 12-hour shifts non-stop through the crisis in order to find and isolate the major leaks that were causing us problems. Those guys deserve a lot of credit for never quitting during the weather we had hitting us at the same time,” Murphy said.

“We also had Fort Steuben Maintenance working on waterline breaks in the West End while we focused on restoring water in the downtown,” added Murphy. “The downtown water residents will be under a water boil advisory until further notice. I am asking all downtown residents and businesses to continue to conserve water while we get our reservoir refilled and back to normal levels.

“I appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding during this time,” Murphy said.

Back in Martins Ferry, Zane Highway resident James Rinkes took his time Tuesday sprinkling salt from a cup onto the sidewalk in front of his home after another shoveling session. Rinkes, and likely many others, is growing weary of winter already.

“It’s been a bad winter,” he noted.

But it’s not all bad for everyone. Martins Ferry residents Dylan Hans and Ringo Blackner, both 16 years old, were taking advantage of the snowfall and the day off from classes at Martins Ferry City Schools on Tuesday. They were busy making their way to their next snow-shoveling job. They estimated they had 10-12 different regular customers who pay them to shovel their snow in the city.

Dave Gossett contributed to this report.