The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 17, 2013

Crews working to thaw ice on prison water tank

— The closure of the SCI-Cresson facility continues to impact local commerce, leaving questions and concerns hanging in every corner of the region.

How to reconfigure utility services after the vacating of 1,500 inmates and 500 workers – all customers in the Cresson Township water service – is one of those questions.

Consideration of the township’s new 300,000-gallon water tank was recently deferred, pending a review of population and service area in light of the prison’s shuttering.

This means Cresson would need to rely on the prison’s million-gallon tank a little more.

But there is one problem: It’s icing over.

Crews from Kentucky-based Pittsburg Tank & Tower, experienced with prison water systems, have been working with industrial-size heaters attached to funnels to melt it down.

The cleaners have been in contact with prison officials every day, but were running behind the Feb. 14 finish date, according to Scott Decoskey, chairman of the Cresson Township supervisors.

Officials at Pittsburg Tank & Tower could not be reached for comment. The state Department of Environmental Protection also has been involved.

It’s freezing up the works in a system that supports not only the prison, but approximately one-third of borough citizens.

The current tank, which is struggling to handle the excess backflow, is due for inspection and refurbishment and an invoice is expected in the township office this week.

“We can function this way for a period of time,” Decoskey said.

But the system would need a bit of tweaking, he said, at least for the sake of the electric bill.

The current tank’s pumps, which typically run 10 to 12 hours daily, are now running all day.

“We’re trying to maintain a constant pressure,” he said.

And about 15 to 20 pounds of that water pressure comes from the prison alone – that will be gone soon. Of the 300 gallons that each of the current tank’s pumps moves, only 180 are actually used.

“We have to find something to do with the 120 gallons that’s fed back into the tank,” Decoskey said.

With the area’s particularly insecure situation, regaining stability at the SCI-Cresson tank could be a potentially effective solution on the utility service side of things.

“I think it’s good we have the option,” Decoskey said.

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