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Officials: ‘Old infrastructure’ to blame for weekend water line problems

WATER WOES — Steubenville Water Superintendent Jim Jenkins watches a crew from Fort Steuben Maintenance excavate dirt and debris for a valve removal on Market Street. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — While the onset of cold weather caused some of the city’s weekend water line problems, Superintendent Jim Jenkins said the line break at Lawson and Orchard avenues was because of “old infrastructure.”

“The pipe’s been in the ground a long time,” Jenkins said Wednesday. “We’d originally intended the 16-inch line on Lawson and Orchard to be part of the Phase II valve and water line replacement project, but there were easement issues — where it lays there’s a private alley with easement issues. We didn’t have time to battle it out before we submitted our list to OEPA, so it’s not in Phase II now, but we’re going to try and move things around and get it included now. And we’re going to try and figure out the easements.”

Jenkins said the existing line ties into a 12-inch line that runs up the Lawson Avenue ramp, and also feeds about 12 houses on the Lawson Avenue ramp.

“It’s not a crucial line, just an old line that’s become a headache,” he said, pointing out “that line affects both hilltops.”

But it wasn’t the only problem area during the weekend. Crews battled breaks at Belleview Boulevard and Ohio Street as well as Eve Drive and Moreland Avenue on Saturday, and another on Mall Drive on Monday.

“I don’t like to use the word ’emergency,'” Jenkins said. “We can handle anything that comes to us. But the 16-inch valve at Lawson and Orchard avenues right now is a major concern. We’re looking into it and we will get it fixed.”

The weekend repairs were in addition to all the valve and line replacements in progress as Phase II of the system improvements continue.

“Our infrastructure in the downtown is old,” Jenkins said, “so we’re going to consistently have breaks due to the age of the infrastructure.

“But with the work we’re doing with Phase I and Phase II, we’re trying to be in a position where we can control the number of residents who are affected — we’re putting valves in so we can isolate smaller areas.”

That’s what they’re doing now on Market Street and Commercial Avenue: Jenkins said they discovered a leaking 12-inch valve on Market Street and a non-functioning 6-inch valve on Commercial Avenue “but couldn’t get (the problem area) isolated” with the valves as they were.

To correct that, he said they inserted a replacement 6-inch valve on Commercial and a 12-inch valve farther down on Market Street as well as some pipe, so now they can shut of the water in that much smaller area “and get this leak fixed.”

“This is a big one for downtown, for the downtown water flow,” he said.

Jenkins said when they shut the supply of in that area during the assessment there was an immediate 150- to 200-gallon-a-minute fluctuation in water going through the downtown.

“That’s a considerable amount of water, almost a million gallons a day,” he said.

“My biggest goal when I took this job was to try and track the water going downtown and get it under control. You’re never going to find it all, but for our residents we’ve got to try to track it and keep moving forward. We need to be good stewards of what we’re spending.”

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