Residents have input on water main project

Newberry Street’s older water line with a low flow has been a concern of residents for years and the problem became a bigger worry in April when a structure fire forced firefighters to use a hydrant on Hillside Avenue to the north.

Douglas Keith, executive director of the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority, described the problem as similar to when a straw collapses due to the suction applied. The older pipe couldn’t withstand the pressure, he said.

Hauser said the Newberry Street main is gravity fed and the goal of installing a new line is to increase the water pressure per square inch from 40 to 75.

Those who live on the street and side streets in the city’s West End had a chance to have input on a project to replace the main, estimated to cost $500,000, during a meeting at Jackson Elementary School Tuesday night.

The project, expected to take up to two months to complete, isn’t going to be without inconvenience for commuters, homeowners, or buses picking up and dropping off students.

“There will be pain no matter how and when we do it,” Keith said.

“We’re asking you to focus on the end-game … months after the project is done, you will enjoy better water flow and pressure,” Keith said.

Residents worry about parking, especially in winter when snow is an issue, and of the access of emergency vehicles.

School bus activity and the implementation of the main are items that can impede the speed of completion, according to Charles Hauser, authority director of engineering.

One option is to begin the project as soon as this winter, but that will mean the contractor can’t do any final paving until spring, Hauser said. The other option is to hold off until spring, something one person in the audience suggested.

Once the main is replaced, residents, some of whom live in houses built in the 1920s without upgrades to plumbing, may discover leaks they didn’t have before with the new flow, Hauser said.

The leaking pipes concern prompted one man to say there would a run on plumbers.

Residents were assured that any damage to the sidewalk won’t result in them having to pay out-of-pocket for repairing cracks or other problems.

The contractor may have to close one lane of the street at times.

“We’re going to accommodate work in one lane,” Hauser said. “There may not be parking on one side.”

It’s just one of many high priority replacement projects the authority has borrowed $15 million to fix.