WEIRTON - After working around in-ground obstacles they've encountered on ArcelorMittal property in the north end of Weirton, crews from James White Construction are days away from moving outside the mill's gates to address problems with the sewage line along old Main Street.
The near $6 million sewage upgrade involves laying about 4,700 lineal feet of gravity sewer to route sanitary flow from roughly 1,000 structures along Pennsylvania Avenue and nearby neighborhoods up old Main Street to the 5th Street Lift Station.
Phase II, still in the planning stages, would take the sanitary flow from the lift station through a new 16-inch main all the way to the Freedom Way treatment plant a little under six miles away, where it will be properly treated and then released into the Ohio River.
Crews have been working inside the mill's gates for the past month.
"They're within 200 feet of the front gate now," Utilities Director A.D. "Butch" Mastrantoni said. Barring any major downturns in weather conditions, "we anticipate them being in old Main Street within the next week or so" to work on line upgrades.
"There've been some unforeseen obstacles," he said. "But once they hit old Main Street, they should be able to make better time."
Mastrantoni said crews were "one or two manholes in" to the project when they encountered an underground obstacle. "But we re-engineered the project and were able to surmount that hurdle," he said.
The city had unknowingly been discharging treated but not sanitized fecal coliforms into the Ohio River through the lift station, which is on mill property. Abnormally high levels of the coliforms were detected in 2010 by ArcelorMittal crews in what was supposed to be industrial process water flowing into the Ohio River. Fecal levels always had been monitored by the company, but it wasn't until Arcelor began removing unneeded structures in the north end and the industrial runoff volumes diminished that officials realized the numbers were outside the norm.
Because they immediately self-reported the problems, the city was able to avoid fines, but it was put under a consent order to expeditiously redesign the system and correct the problems.
To finance Phase I, sewage rates jumped 66 cents to $3.61 per 1,000 gallons. For Phase II, the rates will go to $4.19 per 1,000 gallons.
Mastrantoni has said the city spent nearly $200,000 over the past three years to treat the discharges off-site.