WEIRTON - The Weirton Area Water Board voted unanimously Thursday to purchase 192 new Neptune water meters and discussed the city's preparations in the event of a major water disaster.
Numerous residential meters have stopped recently, meaning lost revenue, reported Sam K. Stoneking Jr, assistant director. Many of the meters were purchased 15 years ago and only had a 10-year estimated life to begin with, he said.
"If we get these new meters, I can get a little bit ahead of the demand," Stoneking said.
Members of the board agreed to pass the resolution authorizing the purchase of 192 meters for $15,800, money that already had been allocated for meters in the budget. Stoneking elaborated he had intended to save those funds for larger industrial meters, but the residential meters are a more pressing issue now. The new meters should be enough to last the city until the end of the fiscal year, Stoneking said.
Members of the board also approved a resolution to purchase a used dump truck from O.S. Hill and Co. in East Liverpool to replace another truck that is no longer operating. The vehicle will cost $32,675 after trading in the defunct truck it will be replacing.
In other business, Utilities Director A.D. "Butch" Mastrantoni reported there has been a series of line breaks associated with the cold weather in the past two weeks. Crews have addressed the major breaks and tank levels are currently stable.
"We still have line breaks out there that haven't surfaced yet because of the frigid weather, but we'll keep on them until they're all tracked down," he said. "Next week if it thaws out that will be easier. The crews have done a very good job despite the weather, and I haven't heard one complaint."
Jim Shockley, chairman of the board, asked Mastrantoni how prepared Weirton is to handle a disaster like the contamination in Charleston. Mastrantoni also was questioned by a city resident on the topic during Monday's Weirton City Council meeting.
Mastrantoni explained that Weirton, on a regular basis, blends about 40 percent well water with about 60 percent river water, which means that if a spill occurred in the river, the city could shut down its river intake and rely on well water.
"We are also a member of the Ohio River Sanitation Commission, which set up a series of spill detection stations up and down the river years ago. If there's any spill, we are able to track that spill from station-to-station," he added. "We are luckier and better situated than Charleston was. Having said that, in reality things can happen that you don't account for."
Mastrantoni highlighted the importance of operators trusting their senses rather than relying on technology completely. He pointed out that if operators at the Charleston plant had reported the licorice smell when they initially noticed it, the spill would have been discovered sooner. The staff at Weirton's water treatment plant have been reminded of this and encouraged to report anything unusual immediately.
The city also has a disaster plan which was drafted seven years ago. The section of the plan related to water contamination is currently being reviewed and updated.
"I think the board and the staff have done everything that we can do. The back-up system is there if we need it," Shockley noted.
Members of the Water Board also voted unanimously to approve property and liability insurance through Travelers Insurance Co. along with city council, who agreed to move forward with the coverage at its meeting Monday. The Water Board's portion of the premium totals approximately $68,540, which is about $55 less than last year.
"It's still a significant amount, but anytime insurance stays the same or goes down a couple of bucks you're probably ahead of the game," Mastrantoni commented.
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