Those in the city of Ronceverte have been struggling with water line breaks since the beginning of construction on the upgrade project. On Monday, May 3, Bob Hazelwood with E.L. Robinson Engineering spoke before the city council to discuss some of the reasons why these issues are happening.
According to Hazelwood, in both discussions during the meeting and in a later interview, the city had been experiencing about 65% water loss before the beginning of construction of January. This water loss resulted from small leaks in the old pipes. Some of those pipes are made of cast iron and date back to 1901-1902. Other asbestos concrete pipes (ACP), were installed around 1975.
During construction, Hazelwood explained that workers must cut the water off to repair these older pipes and replace them with new ductile iron and PVC pipes. When the water is shut off, air enters the pipes. Then, when the water is turned back on, the old lines break around the former leaks causing water to surface and allowing construction workers to see where old leaks are located.
As a result, the city must issue boil water advisories and, at times, shut water off to customers. Only one line break has occurred so far due to construction worker error, Hazelwood said.
Once the project is complete, 25% of the water lines in Ronceverte will be replaced, he added.
Contracts were signed by the city in December 2020 for two separate water line projects, Hazelwood noted.
The first project is a $4,500,000 water system upgrade that will replace the Main West End and Brier Hill water tanks. The second project is a $2,076,000 water system rehabilitation project to replace water lines and install radio-read water meters, according to Hazelwood.
Funding for the projects came from various grants and forgiveness loans.
The completion date for the projects is estimated to be October 2021. Hazelwood said that he hopes the city is awarded future grants to complete work on the remaining water lines.
Steve Williams, chief water operator for the city of Ronceverte, stated in an interview after the meeting that it is going to be a difficult time for Ronceverte Water Customers during the next few months until all water leaks have been discovered.
As of Tuesday morning, city officials had to once again shut water off to customers following the discovery of seven more leaks, Williams said.
Currently, a tanker is in front of Tri-County with fresh drinking water for customers and the city is expecting 14 pallets of bottled drinking water to supply to residents.
Williams stated that those who have trouble accessing fresh drinking water should contact city hall at 304-647-5455.
Additionally, Eric Hartwell of Dunn Engineers, stated that the sewer project at the railroad tracks near Southern States is on hold until a new boring drill head comes in.
Hopefully, construction on that will resume next week, Hartwell added.