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Parkersburg City Council members briefed on stormwater efforts

Parkersburg Public Works Director Everett Shears shows Councilwoman Wendy Tuck a sample of plastic material used to reline damaged storm sewer lines after a Stormwater Committee meeting Thursday at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Since 2018, the city of Parkersburg has relined 3,169 feet of storm sewer lines.

That’s less than 1 percent of the 74 miles of stormwater lines beneath Parkersburg.

“Not all 390,000 feet of storm system may need to be lined, but at this time, we don’t even have a handle on what we have,” City Engineer Adam Stout told members of the city’s Stormwater Committee during a meeting Thursday evening at the Municipal Building.

Four of the Parkersburg City Council members on the committee just took office in January, so the meeting was an opportunity to bring them up to speed on a point of emphasis for the city in recent years.

“I didn’t think that our system was (as) decrepit as it is,” Councilman Austin Richards said. “Definitely going to be a big monetary investment, but it can’t be kept off any longer.”

Clockwise from the front, Parkersburg City Council members Mike Reynolds, Jessica Cottrille, Chris Rexroad and Wendy Tuck, Assistant City Engineer Tyler Moore and Engineer Adam Stout listen to discussion during a Stormwater Committee meeting Thursday in the executive conference room at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Consisting of five council members, the mayor, Stout and Public Works Director Everett Shears, the committee assembled for the first time in August 2018 to review the status of the stormwater system that started in the downtown area in the 19th century. Over the years, it’s grown with pipes of various sizes and materials, often installed by private developers and seldom with much oversight or consistency.

“We’re not unique,” Mayor Tom Joyce said. “Every city that’s as old as we are has these exact same problems.”

Stormwater lines throughout the city have deteriorated, failed or been overwhelmed. Thirteen areas of concern were flagged in a 1984 study, but weren’t addressed over more than three decades, Stout said.

In the last three fiscal years, the city directed more than $1.3 million to stormwater improvements, including an underground retention system on 20th Street, relining some damaged lines and completely replacing others. Five of the 13 areas from the ’84 report have been tackled. The 2020-21 budget has just over $1 million dedicated to such tasks, some of which are underway and others that have yet to begin.

For now, the city bases much of the work on areas where problems have been reported or where lines are made of material, like clay or corrugated metal, that is more prone to failure, Stout said. The ideal method would involve routine inspections of pipes to identify problems before they cause damage, but obtaining the equipment and manpower to do that or contracting out for the service are both expensive, he said.

This year, the city is prioritizing lines near structures to avoid potential emergencies like the failure of a storm sewer on Roseland Avenue that caused sinkholes on a resident’s property. That cost approximately $258,000 but could have been remedied for a fraction of that if caught early enough to reline the pipe, Stout said.

Stout showed the committee a chart of 28 problem areas near structures that would cost about $2.9 million to address. The available funding for the work is in the neighborhood of $300,000.

“That’s 9,275 lineal feet of storm sewer system to look at,” he said.

The rest of the $604,000 for this year’s lining project is intended for sections identified for relining last year but delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stout said.

Other projects on tap include the installation of two 60-inch diameter pipes to provide underground retention in the Beechwood area, where flooding during rain events is a problem due to undersized storm sewer lines, and the replacement of culverts along Pond Run to help water drain to a floodwall pumping station more quickly. The estimated costs are $200,000 and $250,000, respectively.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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