PUB plans interim fix to broken downtown water line

PARKERSBURG — The Parkersburg Utility Board voted Wednesday to move forward with an interim repair for a failed water line downtown.

The 12-inch line runs between the WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center Medical Office Building and Third Street near the Wood County Courthouse. It broke a couple of months ago at Fourth Street and Garfield Avenue.

“It was put in in the ’30s, and we’ve had multiple leaks,” utility board Manager Eric Bennett said.

Initially, Bennett said he was concerned the leak could lead to reduced water pressure and fire flow in the downtown area, but engineering models and flow testing show that isn’t a problem at this point. However, if increased demand was placed on another large line it could become an issue.

The entire line is planned for replacement in a couple of years at an estimated cost of $682,000, as part of a slate of projects to be funded by an anticipated water rate increase. Doing that work now would divert funds that could be used for other projects, Bennett said.

An above-ground pipe is expected to be installed soon as a temporary measure, but that approach won’t work when colder weather arrives, he said.

Since the water flow is not being impacted, Bennett said the board could opt to wait, but he recommended an interim fix that would install approximately 500 linear feet of 12-inch pipe to connect with a 10-inch line at Ann Street. The cost is estimated at $166,000.

Board member John Lutz asked if the interim fix would save money on the complete replacement. Bennett said it would not.

Given the number of buildings downtown that could be affected if there was a water pressure or flow issue, Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce, the board’s chairman, advised against waiting.

“I think it would be irresponsible not to proceed with the interim,” he said.

The board voted 5-0 for Bennett to prepare an engineering agreement with firm Burgess & Niple to develop plans for the project. Separate votes would be needed to approve the agreement and the eventual bid.

Bennett also told the board he planned to move forward with replacing a failed aerial sanitary sewer line behind the former Kmart in south Parkersburg with a culvert. He acknowledged the culvert would be more expensive initially but ultimately more durable.

“This thing has failed twice already, being elevated,” Bennett said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com