Downtown remains dry as water tanks refill

Steubenville Police Chief and Acting City Manager Bill McCafferty coordinated the placement of water buffaloes while Mayor Jerry Barilla listened Friday afternoon. McCafferty encouraged downtown residents who are without water to work with their neighbors to make sure everyone has access to the free water available at the Urban Mission warehouse and at the Steel Valley Regional Transit Center on Adams Street. — Dave Gossett

STEUBENVILLE — Repair crews from the city water department and an outside contractor are continuing to work around the clock today searching for a leak in the city’s downtown area that has left hundreds of residents without water and downtown businesses closed.

According to City Manager Jim Mavromatis, the repair crews are isolating streets and areas of the downtown area from University Boulevard to the South End.

“They have to check every section of the city in order to find the breaks and start to make immediate repairs,” Mavromatis said.

Utility Director Chuck Murphy said he believes there are two major water line breaks, “and six or seven small line breaks in the downtown.”

“We have to replace some of the valves in order to isolate the different zones which takes time. We are hoping to charge the system with water but once we do that we will be looking for the leaks. Finding those leaks is key to getting the system back on line,” said Murphy.

He said customers in the high water pressure zone may see some water but that will be temporary.

“Leak Location System has been helping us this week and will be back next week in order to find the leaks for us,” commented Murphy.

Police Chief Bill McCafferty, who is acting city manager, said the city was able to obtain four water buffaloes to supply free water to residents who need water.

“The water buffaloes will be located at the Urban Mission warehouse on North Sixth Street and at the Steel Valley Regional Transit System Center on Adams Street. We needed to place the containers where electricity is available to prevent the water from freezing when the temperatures drop again this weekend,” explained McCafferty.

“Our concern is the safety of our children and we are doing everything we can to get the broken water lines fixed. I am asking for our residents to have patience while this work is under way,” he added.

McCafferty met with Mayor Jerry Barilla to discuss an emergency preparedness plan for residents who use boilers for heating.

“We are looking at potential shelters for anyone who needs to stay warm. In times like these, this community has always pulled together. It is the responsibility of all of us to look after our neighbors. Please check with your neighbors to see if they need help obtaining water,” Barilla said.

Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi said he has contacted the Jefferson County tanker task force as well as mutual aid fire departments to plan for potential emergencies in the city.

“We are working together to prepare for all possibilities,” noted Capaldi.

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla was able to get two water tanker trucks, which were parked in the sally port at the county jail. The sheriff said water was stored in containers prior to the water being turned off.

The sheriff also ordered 12 portable toilets, which were placed in the outdoor recreation areas of the adult and juvenile sections.

He said he would eventually have to order in prepared meals.

There are 135 adult prisoners and 25 juvenile offenders housed in the Justice Center.

“I’m just going to have to deal with it,” Abdalla said.

Murphy said he ordered the water shut off in the downtown area of Steubenville early Friday morning because, “We are losing water quicker than we can (fill tanks). Until we find this leak, we don’t know what we are dealing with. We are losing a massive amount of water.”

Murphy said an existing leak worsened or another leak happened overnight. As a result, the city is losing water faster than can be produced and put back in the system, he said.

Once the tanks in the city get filled, Murphy said crews will turn the water back on to the downtown area. The leak isn’t coming to the surface, so it is probably draining into sewer lines, he noted, and crews will check sewer lines for increased flow.

And Murphy said a mandatory water conservation order remains in effect until further notice.

(Gossett can be contacted at Mark Law contributed to this story.)