Water tank details reveal need for action

VIENNA – Vienna will be holding the public forum and the third reading of the ordinance for the water tank rehabilitation on Thursday, leaving many citizens wondering about the condition of the tanks in question, officials said.

The public forum and third reading of the ordinance are scheduled to be held at the Vienna Council Chambers at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The tanks included in the refurbishing plans are generally designated by their location: the Ohio Valley University tank, the Millstone tank and the Masonic tank, officials said.

The Ohio Valley University tank sits beside a building at the university. The Millstone tank is partially hidden among the trees high in the Millstone subdivision. The Masonic tank is on the hill beside the Masonic home in Vienna.

Although the exteriors of the three tanks slated for refurbishing are in poor condition, the interior of each tank has been inspected by Burgess and Niple, an independent engineering and architectural firm, said Craig Metz, public works director for Vienna. The interiors are in good condition, Metz said.

Exterior damage to the tanks led to the internal inspection, said Mayor Randy Rapp. Each tank was drained and inspected from the inside by the Burgess and Niple team during the engineering study for the project.

A detailed list of flaws with each tank was produced during this study, but all tanks are structurally sound and still providing safe water for everyday use, including drinking, Rapp said.

Damages to the exterior of all tanks are visible, and give rise to an obvious need for this routine maintenance, Rapp said.

The Millstone tank is in the worst condition, said Rapp. Thousands of rusty spots line the outside of the tank. In some places, the tank exterior juts an inch or more from its original position because of a “blistering” effect. Below almost every blister spot, a trail of rust has dripped down the tank’s exterior.

The interior of this tank “is in surprisingly good condition,” said Metz. He ventured into the tank personally when it was drained for the Burgess and Niple engineering study.

Metz described the interior of the tank as free of rust and with a small amount of silt along the bottom. “There was nothing that shouldn’t have been there, and even the silt content, which is entirely normal for water tanks, was very low,” Metz said.

The Masonic tank was described as “in much the same shape as the Millstone tank,” Rapp said. Unfortunately, the road leading to the Masonic tank has washed out over the winter, preventing access for up-close photographs.

The Ohio Valley University tank is the towering red and white structure that can be seen across the area. Constant wind exposure has stripped away much of the paint and the primer on the university side of the tower structure.

This tank was last painted in the early 1990s, said Metz.

The 170-foot-tall tank contains some of the history of Vienna on it, Metz said. “Any city worker who is brave enough to climb to the top of the tank for whatever reason gets to sign their name in magic marker at the top,” Metz said. “And it is a very short list.”

The magic marker signatures are not in a location that comes in contact with the water, Metz said. They are also the only location on the tower that will not be refurbished, he said. The signatures are considered a piece of Vienna history, and specific instructions exist to keep them intact, Metz said.

The exact ages of these three tanks have been lost to history, Metz said. The Ohio Valley University tank has no records to provide an estimated age, Metz said. The Millstone and Masonic tanks are “assumed to have been built in the late (19)50s or early ’60s,” Metz said.

The tanks on the hill behind Jackson Middle School are assumed to have been built in the 1930s. These three tanks will be replaced by a new, modern tank in 2014.

The condition of the three tanks that will be refurbished has prompted the public ordinance that is approaching its third reading and public forum in Vienna City Council. The replacement of the Jackson Middle School tanks will be handled with a different ordinance, Rapp said.

The bidding for the refurbishing process of the three tanks has closed, Rapp said. However, no bid has been awarded, he said.

The estimated cost of the three tanks is $1.2 million, Rapp said.

The project is being delayed by a required review process from the state Public Service Commission, Rapp said. The Public Service Commission must determine how it will classify the repair work before granting permission to proceed, Rapp said.

“The awarding of the bid will take place after permission for the project to continue is given from the Public Service Commission,” Rapp said.

Once that permission has been obtained, the project will begin, Rapp said.

Work on the Ohio Valley University tank will begin in July, once the students have left for the summer, Metz said. This is being done so as not to disturb classes at the university, he said. It will be completed in August, he said.

Work on the Millstone tank will begin around the same time, Metz said. It is scheduled to be completed in September.

The speed of work at these two sites will determine when the Masonic tank refurbishing process will begin, Rapp said.

Each tank will be drained and taken out of operation before the refurbishing process begins.

Residents of Vienna will not notice any change in their water during this process, Rapp said. Each tank’s normal residents will be switched to receive water from another tank while their normal tank is being refurbished.

The only area that will not be serviced by an extant tank is the “higher area serviced by the OVU tank,” Metz said.

Here, plans are in place to bring in a bladder and pump system to act in place of the elevated tank. This bladder and pump system will be protected behind the security fencing of the construction site.

“This will operate on the same principle as a country well,” Rapp said. “As water is used, the pump will engage and inflate the bladder with replacement water from the pump,” he said.

The interior and exterior of each tank will be sand-blasted, Metz said. The interiors will have a new protective coating installed to form a layer between the drinking water and the materials which make up the tank. The outside of each tank will be painted to protect it from the elements.

During the refurbishing process, residents won’t be able to see much, Metz said. Each tank will be surrounded by scaffolding before it is encased in a giant tarp. There will be several cranes and temporary security fencing at each site.

The tarp enclosures will make certain that all of the sand-blasting debris, along with all of the paint chips removed, can be properly contained and cleaned up, he said.

The water supplies for the tanks will be protected from debris contamination by sheer distance, Rapp said. Each tank’s well field is several miles from the corresponding tank’s location, he said. During construction, the water will be redirected to other areas of the city and will bypass its normal tank.

During the refurbishing process, all of the tanks will be brought up to speed with Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, Rapp said.

The Millstone and Masonic tanks need a secondary entry point added to be brought current with OSHA standards.

All three tanks require various safety upgrades as well, including new ladders, doors, locks, electronics, and other similar features, Metz said.

No definite decision has been made as to color schemes for the refurbished tanks. The Ohio Valley University tank will probably end up white, with a stripe around it, Rapp said.

“If early plans hold, we will have ‘Vienna’ painted on the Vienna side in the stripe, and the Ohio Valley University logo painted on the university side,” Rapp said.

Early indicators lean toward a green or a blue color for the Millstone and Masonic tanks, Metz said.

The decision on colors or designs will be made by the Vienna Utility Board, Rapp said. Such a decision is still months away.

“What we do know for certain already is that we will not be repeating the red-and-white paint scheme of the past for the OVU tank,” Rapp said.