Water mains: A quiet, big problem for Williamsport

Very quietly, the city of Williamsport and the Williamsport Water Authority have a big problem.

It is aging water mains.

The aging water mains lead to low flow in fire hydrants.

And that low flow leads to inadequate ability to fight city fires which can be fatal.

City Fire Chief Dean Heinbach expressed concern last week about low-flow fire hydrants and lamented that it will be two or three years before some of them are improved. The problem showed itself when firefighters had to tap into a better hydrant a block and a half away from an intentionally set fire recently.

It’s expensive to replace water mains, about $1.3 million a mile.

There is a water main improvement project beneath Newberry Street, but it isn’t scheduled until 2015.

This problem isn’t the fault of anyone. The City of Williamsport, like most older cities, has infrastructure shortcomings, and those projects don’t have the sexiness of other projects on the capital improvements calendar. And it’s nearly impossible for the water authority to keep up with the scope of the problem.

That doesn’t make it less important. When city officials were recently debating the next capital improvements budget, we asked that streets and infrastructure be given a greater priority.

Water main and fire hydrant improvement is the sort of project we were talking about. Wherever funding can be found, it should be sought to solve the water main problem.

We hope this problem will get another look from city and water authority leaders to see if the timetable for improving the situation can be moved up.