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Follansbee plans for water, sewer work

UPCOMING PROJECTS — Follansbee City Clerk Dave Kurcina, far left, takes notes as Mayor David Velegol Jr., center, and City Manager John DeStefano discuss an upcoming project at Thursday’s meeting of the city’s sewer board. (Photo by Warren Scott)

FOLLANSBEE — The city’s water and sewer boards received updates recently on major projects involving the replacement of aging lines and diverting heavy runoff into the Ohio River.

Jeff Ekstrom, an engineer with Ghosh Engineers, said plans are nearly complete for upgrades to the city’s downtown water treatment system while plans for improvements to the treatment system that serves its Hooverson Heights customers and others outside the city are under way.

He said the plans must be submitted for the state health department’s approval in December, and he expects the department’s decision no earlier than February.

City Manager John DeStefano said the city has secured a $1.8 million private loan for the two projects while continuing to seek federal and state funds for them.

DeStefano confirmed water and sewer rate increases will be needed but the amounts haven’t been determined yet.

He said the city was able to repay early a loan taken several years ago from the state Water Development Authority for upgrades to the sewer plant and that has delayed the need for rate hikes at this time.

Paul Ghosh, owner of the engineering firm, said the sewer project will include upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment to improve its efficiency and the separation of many combined sanitary and stormwater sewer lines.

He noted the city is one of many municipalities ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency to separate old sewer lines that convey both raw sewage and rainwater, which enters the lines from storm drains, to the Ohio River.

Heavy rainfall can result in the sludge entering the river, and Follansbee and others have been ordered to separate the lines to prevent that.

Ekstrom said residents may see staff in an all-terrain vehicle surveying areas along the lines.

Ghosh said there are plans to install new lines with the sole purpose of carrying runoff from the hillside overlooking the city to the river.

He added the separations also will allow the city to replace some old lines with smaller ones that will more efficiently convey waste so it doesn’t accumulate and create odor.

Mayor David Velegol said the water project also will involve replacing aging water lines, including many in the city’s Orchard section; and installing valves to reduce the need to discontinue service to large areas of the city’s customer base when line breaks occur.

DeStefano said the valves will be a major improvement because they will reduce the number of customers who must go without service while repairs are made.

He noted there were two line breaks downtown on Thursday and one required service to be disrupted for the north half of the city for three to four hours.

DeStefano said also under consideration is a new main line along Mahan Lane, which would benefit residents there while also possibly serving as a backup during line breaks.

Ekstrom said a water tank currently serving the city, with a capacity for about 150,000 gallons, is too small, so property near Highland Hills and McKim’s Ridge are being eyed for a new tank with a capacity for 212,000 gallons.

Velegol said he wanted to make clear the latter site is owned by members of his family so he won’t be taking part in any decision on it.

The Highland Hills site is owned by Ewusiak Development.

Water Superintendent Jack McIntosh said the McKim’s Ridge site is at a higher elevation that would allow the city to serve additional customers while other measures could be taken to increase service near the Ewusiak property.

In other business, the sewer board accepted the resignation of Rich Paesani, the city’s wastewater superintendent of about 20 years and an operator there since 1982.

While Paesani will step down from the position in December, the board has agreed to retain him as a consultant for a time afterward.

DeStefano said Paesani’s knowledge of the wastewater treatment system will be very helpful as the city moves forward with the sewer project.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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