A $500,000 competitive state grant will be used to put finishing touches on a massive upgrade of the public water system serving Portage Borough and parts of Portage Township.
The Portage Municipal Authority will use the money to fund line replacement in the areas of Martindale, on Route 164 in the township, and on Grant Street and Johnson Avenue.
Any money left from the award, which will total about $450,000 after an administrative cost is deducted, will be used to fix some of more than 40 areas where water lines tend to freeze in winter, system superintendent Ron Cadwallader Jr. said.
“These are lines that freeze because they are too close to the surface,” he said. “It’s about conservation of water because now (residents) let the water run during cold weather.”
Cadwallader said he does not know how many of those problem areas can be fixed, but some lines lying close to the surface may be dug up and then buried deeper.
Larry Custer of the Cambria County Redevelopment Authority applied for the grant, which is not part of the money received annually by Cambria County as its entitlement funding.
Bids for the project will be sought in spring with completion likely to take about a year.
Already planned is a $4.8 million water line upgrade that will improve service for all of the system’s 2,550 customers, Cadwallader said.
The system is served by deep wells and reservoirs in the Martindale area and in Benscreek, both in Portage Township.
The improvements will focus on replacing lines along Route 164 from Martindale toward town, authority Chairman Ray Vandzura said.
Much of the work will be in the Spring Hill area of the township.
Key to the project is a 1-million-gallon storage tank that will replace one about half that size. The old tank will be removed, Vandzura said.
Funding for that $4.8 million project is coming from a low-interest loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Fund with repayment over the next several decades.
Impact of the loan on customers is not yet fully known, but Vandzura said the authority has already implemented an annual gradual increase in monthly rates.
About 25,000 feet of 8- to 10-inch pipe will replace undersized lines, most of which are 6 inches.
While some of the lines are newer and made of plastic, others date to the days when contractors used lead pipe, officials said.
Some hydrants also will be replaced.
“It’s a win-win for the community,” Vandzura said. “It will provide better fire protection (and) better service for the residents.”
The initial phase of the work is being handled through three contracts. Line replacement is being done by Diehl Excavating of Glen Hope, Clearfield County, and Fred Lumadue Excavating of West Decater, Clearfield County.
The tank was constructed by Mid-Atlantic Storage Systems Inc. of Washington Court House, Ohio, Cadwallader said.
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