City expects to lift water conservation order

STEUBENVILLE – Water Superintendent Jim Jenkins told City Council Tuesday water production is headed in the right direction.

“Hopefully, we’ll be lifting the conservation order tomorrow and it will be business as usual,” Jenkins said. “This wasn’t a crisis, but it was close: People still had water, we just asked residents to use it wisely. The ones that conserved, it made a difference.”

Jenkins had issued the conservation notice Friday after determining the plant’s super-pulsators weren’t performing correctly and the plant was struggling to produce enough water to properly supply the city’s needs.”

“When I left work Thursday, we were struggling, but still managing to produce enough water,” he said. “But when I came in Friday morning, (tanks and wells) were low, we were on the verge of a crisis, on the verge of losing water production in most of the city.”

The city’s filtration plant, built in 2006, uses sludge blankets and chemicals with the super-pulsator technology to filter dirt out of the water, but prolonged periods of cold temperatures and reduced turbidity cause the blankets to break apart. When the filters get plugged up they have to be cleaned and backwashed, a water-intensive process.

“Normally what happens when temps get this cold and there’s a lack of dirt in the river, we start seeing it so we make adjustments,” he said. “If we hadn’t instituted conservation and workarounds … we would have run out of water.”

Jenkins said the city has the only super-pulsator in Ohio. He said it was a pilot project to determine the capabilities and weaknesses of what the real plants would face in different operating conditions.

Jenkins said the original plans called for another super-pulsator and filter at the Steubenville plant. When pressed, he told council the cost easily could run into the $4 million to $5 million range.

“We constantly talk about ‘should we add a fourth pulsator,’ that’s a decision we have to make in future to see what we can do to prevent this from happening again,” he said. “A fourth super-pulsator, to us that’s the answer, but we need to make sure it’s the right answer. We need to spend our money wisely so we have to go through all the (investigatory steps) to find out.”

Jenkins said the work that’s been done since the 2018 water crisis, when a large chunk of the downtown area was without water for days on end, has turned out to be the community’s saving grace.

“There’s still a lot of work to do but that right there, is what saved us,” he said, adding the valve replacement project “stopped a lot of water loss and gave us the ability to shut lines off.”

Council also signed off on a two-year extension to City Manager Jim Mavromatis’s contract, through March 28, 2023.

“I’ve worked with Mr. Mavromatis for the past three years,” Mayor Jerry Barilla said after the vote. “He has been a leader for this city. I’ve seen him show compassion and empathy, his commitment to our residents is outstanding. He looks at our residents as his family.”

In other action, 2nd Ward Councilman Craig Petrella asked Mavromatis to assist with compiling a list of “problem areas and get them into the pipeline so the judge can hear it “

“If we start now, maybe by the time good weather hits we can have a handle on it,” he said.

Council also heard the second reading of an ordinance renaming Steele Avenue as Mucci Way, as well as the first reading of an ordinance reclassifying property on Stanton Boulevard as “public and semi-public. The acreage, owned by Steubenville City Schools, is currently zoned B-2 community commercial district.


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