October 6, 2008

Wheeling Struggles With Water Line Worries

By Harris, Linda

Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie wants a complete assessment of the city's water and sewer infrastructure after several. costly line breaks in recent weeks have raised concerns about its condition.

"It is an issue, we do realize it," he said. "There's already been an evaluation done, but we're going to do a complete review of that evaluation.... City Council needs to sit down, look it over and get an understanding of where we need to move."

McKenzie said a new pump station installed in the Wheeling Park area may have triggered some of the problems.

"Doing that increased pressure on the water lines," he said. "Within days we had water breaks everywhere because the lines downtown broke, theycouldn't handle the pressure."

But McKenzie pointed out it's not just a Wheeling problem, since the city supplies water and sewer treatment throughout Ohio County.

"We're spending a ton of money on these breaks," he added. "We have miles and miles of lines but we're going in and fixing five or 10 feet at a time. It doesn't make sense to spend money to only fix it when we've got an emergency situation - we need to start looking at this long-term, but the problem there is that we don't have the resources to do that. We've got to get a plan and start implementing that plan going forward, but the ultimate financial cost is so large council and all of the citizens are going to have to have an understanding of what it's going to involve. The problem is not going to fix itself."

Though there is some state and federal aid available, "the need is greater than there are resources," he said.

"The need for water and sewers in West Virginia is in the billions," he said. "It's a statewide problem and a national problem, especially in older communities, so Wheeling's situation is not unique. It's just that lately we've had a run of bad luck."

McKenzie said some downtown lines date to the 1880s. Because the downtown lines are trunk lines, "problems there tend to be magnified," he said.

"Our water and sewer facilities are very modern," he added. "The city has put a tremendous amount of money and resources in them, but they have a finite life and they're kind of coming to the end of their life."

Copyright State Journal Corporation Sep 5, 2008

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