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PSC approves new water tank

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

The Public Service Commission of West Virginia has approved the Clarksburg Water Board's plan to construct a 2 million gallon water storage tank.

The tank, to be located in the area of South 2nd Street, will replace the Chestnut Street Water Tank. On page three of the Sept. 8 ruling, commissioners noted that according to engineering staff, the 1.08 million gallon Chestnut Street tank is approximately 90 years old and in danger of failing structurally.

The estimated cost of the replacement project is $2,151,700. According to the ruling, the water board has received a binding commitment letter from the W.Va. Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Public Health for a loan of approximately $2.1 million at 3 percent interest for a 20 year term.

"This (that the Chestnut Street tank needs to be replaced) was determined a long time ago," said Richard Welch, general manager of the Water Board. "It's gotten worse in the last few years. The replacement of the tank has always been in our long term plans. Obviously, we're very pleased to receive the certificate. It's a very badly needed project."

Welch also said he was pleased the commission granted the Water Board's request for a 2 million gallon replacement tank.

While the replacement would have approximately twice the capacity of the Chestnut Street tank, commissioners cited several reasons for granting the request for a 2 million gallon tank. They cited PSC staff assertions that changing the size of the replacement could delay removal of the old tank, and the fact the water board would have to construct an additional tank if a 1 million gallon replacement proved to be too small. Also commissioners cited a staff assertion that if the new tank is two large, the error would only result in an increase of one-half of one percent in the purchase costs of municipalities and public service districts that purchase water from the board.

Representatives of the City of Bridgeport, which is the water board's largest resale customer, as well as the Town of Nutter Fort, the City of Stonewood and three public service districts, had asserted that a 1 million gallon replacement tank would have been adequate. Norm Farley of West & Jones, who represented Bridgeport in the certificate case, said he was disappointed a 2 million gallon tank was granted.

"We have no question the Chestnut Street tank needs to be replaced, but I think evidence clearly shows a 2 million gallon tank would be too big. The replacement would be twice as big as the one up there now, and it's only been half-full for the last five years," Farley said. "Our engineer (Thomas Urquhart of Thrasher Engineering Inc.) thinks there are problems with the height and altitude of the tank -- that it could cause problems with water flow in and out of the Broad Oaks tank.

"We'll take a look at the ruling and decide if there's any action my clients might want to take."

Farley also said he believes the water board could have saved at least $300,000 by building a smaller tank. The parties that opposed a 2 million gallon tank could either choose not to contest the ruling, file a motion for reconsideration with the commission, or appeal to the state Supreme Court.

However, commissioners stated on page five of the ruling the PSC staff "asserts the intervenors (Bridgeport) failed to produce any convincing evidence the proposed tank is too large or that the selected location is not proper."

Welch said he would meet with Mike Ritz, project manager of the engineering firm Gannett-Flemning on Wednesday, hopefully to get an idea of a time frame to seek bids from contractors.

"This shows residents and existing businesses that we're serious about the community, economic development and looking to the future," Welch said.

Staff Writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at sgainer@exponent-telegram.com.

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