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Major water project needed in St. C.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The city is in a precarious position regarding water service, with Safety and Service Director Jeremy Greenwood informing council Monday of a break in a main waterline supplying the city.

“If something would happen to that section … we’re toast. We could lose our water,” he said.

“These are our two main waterlines that come from our water plant and supply the city. One of them’s leaking,” he said.

He said he does not know how long this situation has been ongoing. The leak was found when city employees responded to water pressure issues two weeks ago and observed water “bubbling up” on the diversion ditch of the interstate on the side of the road, between Reservoir Road and the bike trail along I-70.

“The water is coming out of both sides. The north side (of I-70) you can actually see where it’s bubbling. The south side there’s water coming out but you can’t really tell, the ground’s just wet. We think (the leak) is closer to the north side.”

Greenwood said a 10-inch line dating from the 1930s and a 12-inch line dating from the 1980s go through the same conduit under I-70.

“We don’t know which line it is (with the leak) and we’re not going to be able to know until we dig it up and find out.”

He said at this point, he did not know how much water was being lost in the leak.

“That’s the problem,” he said. “If we dig this up right now, it could cause a catastrophic failure, which could render the city pretty much without water. These are our two main lines. … In order to find out, we have to dig it up.”

He said digging up several prior waterlines resulted in blowouts, and the city cannot afford for these lines to crumble. Greenwood said between 500,000 and 600,000 gallons of water runs through those lines daily.

“There could be a lot of water gushing through before we get it shut off,” he said.

He said the leak is a “steady trickle.” On a slightly positive note, Greenwood said the city’s water loss through leaks has recently dropped below 30 percent. If this leak is significant, then repairing it could possibly bring the city’s water loss below 20 percent.

“It could be three months from now before we know how significant the hole is in the line,” Greenwood said.

“We engaged an engineer on it,” he said, adding Vaughn Coast and Vaughn is looking into the issue and the Ohio Department of Transportation is also involved due to the proximity of I-70.

“If we end up boring under the interstate, we have to get a permit from them to do it. That’s why we tried to engage them as soon as possible. Just looking at options,” he said.

One option is to utilize an existing 14-inch concrete casement for a conduit under the bike trail tunnel to run a waterline. Another is to bore underneath I-70 and lay an alternate waterline on the south side, which will necessitate securing rights-of-way from landowners.

“Those are our two main options right now,” Greenwood said. “This is coming, and we have to address it.”

Greenwood added that the city has received $269,262.60 from the American Rescue Plan Act, with an identical amount expected closer to December.

“This is one of the things it could fund directly, is water infrastructure,” he said.

Greenwood said customers have so far experienced no disruption of service. When the new lines are in place, he said it will be necessary to shut off water to the city and utilize the city’s three water tanks to supply residents and businesses during the changeover.

“We’re going to schedule it to have everything ready to go so that there are the least amount of disruptions,” he said. “Hopefully within a couple hours we shut it off, we get it into the new lines, and we’re already back to refilling the tanks, but it’s still so preliminary it’s hard to tell. But that’s going to be our best option whether we’re going to bore under the interstate or connect down with this other line at the bike trail.”

Greenwood recommends beginning work as soon as possible, hopefully in a matter of weeks. The city’s long-term goal is to purchase water from Belmont County, and a connection is being established on the east end of the city.

“Just because of the potential of what could happen,” Greenwood said. “This is how we supply water to the city. Until we can get our East End connection up and running, we have those two lines. This is it.”

Greenwood added that the city’s current connection to Belmont County’s water system is beside the water plant.

“So any of that water flows through these two lines that flow across the interstate. This is a big deal. We’re going to move as fast as we can.”

He said an emergency meeting might be scheduled to present a plan to City Council.

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