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Water breaks continue

Water pipes freezing, thawing and freezing again has created nonstop work for the City of Ironton’s water distribution department.

There has been more than 50 water line breaks in the past month and a half and 27 meters replaced. There are currently eight leaks within the city.

“I applaud our employees who have braved this weather and worked extremely hard to rectify these situations,” Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said. “These guys deserve all the credit in the world.”

But according to Blankenship, the four full-time employees in the water distribution department are physically drained from the rigorous job of repairing breaks and as of Tuesday morning a plan was devised to provide them some relief.

“We have decided to take four or five employees from other departments to create another crew and offer these guys some assistance,” Blankenship said. “The breaks have not let up. These guys are tired and people have to have water.”

Although the breaks continue across the city, they remain sporadic and many are service lines, which do not affect people’s water.

“We prioritize the leaks,” Blankenship said. “Service line leaks can wait, but we still don’t want to have too many. We are not out of the woods yet. The weather forecast shows cold, rainy and snowy weather coming up. Luckily we are not in the shape of other communities like those along the Elk River and Ashland, Ky., with contamination and widespread, long-term outages.”

Ensuring the safety of residents and workers is another obstacle to repairing leaks and breaks expeditiously. Oftentimes the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has to be notified and brought on-site before any work can begin.

“There are underground pipes and lines that have to be marked by PUCO before we can start digging,” Blankenship said. “People are always told to call before they dig. Well, we have to do that, too.”

Antiquated sewer and water line maps have caused minor issues as well. Blankenship said the recent rash of water breaks has renewed his intent to update the maps.

“Because our maps are old and have not been updated we sometimes find lines and pipes we didn’t know existed and sometimes we dig looking for a line that is on the map but it’s not there when we dig.”

Regardless, Blankenship said, providing water to Ironton’s homes and businesses is the city’s main goal and the few minor setbacks have not hampered the ability to do so.

“This is the worst I have seen the water line situation in the six years I’ve been mayor,” he said. “I have personally been out at 3 and 4 a.m. with the crew while they are working in the cold and mud to fix leaks and breaks. When residents of Ironton turn on their faucets and water comes out it is truly a testament to the hard work and dedication of these employees.”