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St. C. water servce taking shape

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The future of water service is fluid but taking shape.

St. Clairsville Mayor Kathryn Thalman held a brief conference with engineer Jeff Vaughn on Thursday, when he updated her on his findings and progress in preparing water service to meet Ohio Environmental Protection Agency mandates.

In the beginning of May, council officially decided to turn down an offer to privatize the water and wastewater systems and instead to prepare to discontinue use of the aging water treatment plant and purchase water from Belmont County. This after an analysis from Vaughn found it was fiscally feasible to retain local control. EPA mandates have called for the water treatment plant and reservoirs to be discontinued in the next two years. The main reservoir may be retained for recreational use.

Vaughn reported it will not be necessary to move a booster station on U.S. 40 at the east end of St. Clairsville as he at first thought, since the county maintains a booster station with sufficient capacity to pump water directly to the city’s elevated water tank by the municipal building. Vaughn said this would mean a savings to the city. In a prior interview, Vaughn estimated the cost of moving the booster station at $400,000.

Also, he is making ready to conduct a hydrant flow test, mostly likely next week, to determine flow rate and pressure.

“It’s to calibrate a hydraulic flow model,” he said, adding he would compare the results to his computer model.

“We simulate flows of water in and out, but you have to make assumptions, but when you have an old system like this it’s very dangerous. You cannot make assumptions unless you physically go out and calibrate those assumptions on the field with readings. That’s what we’re doing now on the east-end area,” Vaughn said.

They also addressed the ongoing issues of basement flooding for residents at Bellview Street. Vaughn proposed a stopgap measure until a more permanent project can be considered. He said this involves digging holes in these basements and installing backwater check valves.

“This check valve stops the water flow from entering your basement,” Vaughn said. “It’s a standard thing done in areas that are large and have combined sewer issues on low-lying homes.”

He estimated the cost at $3,000 to $4,000 per home. There are about three houses impacted by basement flooding during periods of heavy rainfall.

Vaughn also suggested delaying the demolition of the water tower dating from 1929 with a 200,000-gallon capacity until the process of purchasing water from Belmont County is underway. Last year the city completed a new 500,000-gallon tank at St. Clair Commons to supersede the older tank.

“It can advantage you to have that tank rather than not having it right now, in the short term,” Vaughn said.

“Especially keeping a redundancy,” Thalman said.

The city must also begin working with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership to plan a water-loss audit to determine the amount of processed water lost, either to leaks or to a lack of metering on public facilities.

“We’re just getting started on it right now,” Vaughn said. “The interest here is to begin to get those readings. We’re going to have to plan to do the distributing system, sectioning off, we might have to put some meters in the piping to begin to look at water losses. We’re basically starting the planning process with RCAP.”

Another tool is Geographic Information System Mapping. Vaughn said the auditing process will likely take a quarter of the year.

Thalman said all of the city’s public buildings have been metered. There have also been some leaks found and repaired.

“(The audit) will give them a really accurate picture. If you see a huge leak, they’re going to catch it, but there may be places where it’s leaking in smaller places,” she said.

Thalman said she remains in contact with RCAP, seeking low-interest loans, but the coronavirus pandemic has slowed those efforts.

“You first got to identify what you want to do and put a cost to it, then get in line (during the grant and loan cycles),” Vaughn said.

Thalman did not have the exact figure at hand for money the city has spent so far in addressing water issues.

Thalman commended city employees who are laying groundwork for the changeover onto county water.

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