St. Clairsville tackling old and new water problems
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Maintaining water service in the city and preparing for the coming changeover to using Belmont County water is proving a complicated task, with issues arising from both the old system and new additions.
Safety and Service Director Jeremy Greenwood said the placement of the new water tank at St. Clair Commons has caused some issues that residents on the east end of town might have noticed.
“It’s a little bit more difficult to use than it should be, and part of that is where it came from and what it was originally intended to be,” he said. “It was originally supposed to be an elevated tank like (the old ones) at roughly the same elevation, to a ground-mounted tank, then it went from a ground-mounted tank on top of a hill to where it’s at now.”
Greenwood said the hydraulics system calls for water to be pumped to the tanks, then gravity-fed out. The residents of the east side of St. Clairsville are noticing some pressure issues related to its operation.
“With that tank being lower, when we pump into the system, it will fill up that tank faster, so they put an altitude valve on it to slow down the water and stop it. If that valve is all the way open, it sucks a lot of water from the east side of town, to the point where we have pressure problems,” he said.
Greenwood added that since there is one line feeding the tank and it is low, the water must be pumped out. This means the tank cannot be filled and used at the same time as the older tanks are.
“We can either fill it or use it. We can’t do both the way it’s set up,” he said. “We are … limping the tank along. We can’t fill it as fast as we’d like to.”
This is why the older tank, dating from 1929, has not been torn down as had been planned when the new 500,000-gallon tank was built in 2019 at a cost of $1.7 million, including grant funding. The 1929 tank holds 200,000 gallons and another tower from 1984 holds 250,000 gallons
Greenwood said the inability to fill and use the tank has meant added complications such as the need to pay closer attention to the quality of water.
Greenwood said further development at St. Clair Commons would mean users of the water would be closer to the tank.
He said the city’s plan to be connected with Belmont County’s water system by next year and be purchasing water from the county could solve these problems and make the tank a moot point.
Another issue, though, is the distribution system.
“The way our distribution system is set up now, it distributes out from the tanks like arteries and veins. When you change direction in a pipe when you start pushing the water in a different direction, sometimes you’re going to have some water quality issues, which is what we’re trying to anticipate.”
He is also pursuing distribution system funding available through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, adding that maintaining and upgrading the city’s older and leaking distribution system is a high priority.
“What we’re looking at is upgrading the whole east end of the town. Hopefully those are either low- to no-interest loans,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be eligible.”
“Most of our problems are just the age of everything,” he said, adding the 4-inch waterlines are now 3 or 2 inches in diameter due to the gradual accumulation of deposits inside them. Frequent waterline breaks are also an issue.
“The goal that I have is to replace our entire water distribution system. It’s been neglected for some time,” he said. “It’s a very tall order. … We’ve got some waterlines from the ’40s.”
He anticipates replacing the system will cost close to $2 million.
Greenwood said day-to-day operations have been further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and his workers are not classified among police, nurses and doctors with the highest priority of people to be vaccinated. He said most of his workers have not been vaccinated and must continue their duties while maintaining social distancing and taking other precautions.
“If the sanitary department isn’t treating (sanitary water) we’ve got a public health risk,” he said. “If we’re not making water, we’ve got major problems. If we’re not treating the water, we’ve got major problems. … We still have contact with the public all the time, we just try to be a little more cautious.”