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May 7, 2014

Sewer work coming to Woodvale, Prospect

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown’s ongoing sewer project, which is being done on a neighborhood-to-neighborhood schedule, will soon come to Woodvale and Prospect.

Work is planned to begin in those communities later this year.

On Wednesday night, representatives from the city, along with its engineering firm, The EADS Group, held a meeting to inform residents of those areas about the project.

About two dozen people attended the meeting held at the City Council chambers.

“People want to get the information,” said the city’s engineer, Steve Sewalk of The EADS Group.

“Most of the people that we talk to on a daily basis understand that no one’s happy about this. No one’s going to thank us when we’re done with this. They just want to know what they have to do, when they have to do it.

“We try to have these meetings so that they understand why it’s happening and what they’ll be looking to, as far as schedules, times frames.”

Officials have held several similar meetings within the past months, including one for residents of the 8th Ward on Tuesday night.

“We’re trying to do a lot more neighborhood meetings,” said City Manager Kristen Denne.

“We’re trying to meet with smaller groups of people, where we can sit individually, like we have here tonight, answer their concerns and questions about their individual households. We’re also encouraging people not to listen to rumors or skepticism, but to call City Hall directly or to call the EADS office directly.

“We have people that are willing to come to your homes, willing to come help you, show you what you actually need to do to comply with this project. Most of the time when people have done this, they come away much more relieved and realize this is not as big of a burden or as large of a necessity as it’s been portrayed.”

The city expects to complete its work in Prospect and Woodvale before the end of 2016.

Residents will then have until April 2018 to make sure their own private systems can pass a pressure test, which has become a controversial requirement of the project.

In 2010, the city entered into a consent agreement with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection that requires Johnstown to eliminate all of its sanitary sewer overflows by Dec. 31, 2022, or face the possibility of fines that could, in a worst-case scenario, reach $2.75 million or more annually, according to Sewalk.

The order only requires lines to pass smoke and/or dye tests. However, EADS and City Council felt a more strenuous pressure test requirement was needed in order to assure the system would comply within the time allotted.

Most older local systems, especially those using terra cotta pipes, will not pass a pressure test without needing construction work done.

The average cost per property is between $2,500 and $3,000, according to a survey of contractors conducted by EADS, although estimates in excess of $10,000 have been reported because the price varies depending on the amount of excavation, line installation and repair work needed.

Several audience members objected to the pressure test mandate during the meeting.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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