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Infrastructure & Services
Village Supervisor of Electric and Water Distribution Johnnie Burns, at left, is shown last Friday on Corry Street overseeing the work of GM Pipelines crews working on the water system loop completion project. To facilitate water flow, the GM crews are replacing old 8-inch pipes with 10- or 12- inch pipes at three locations: downtown, on the Antioch College campus, and on Herman Street. The project should be complete at the end of May. (Photo by diane Chiddister)

Public Works Director Johnnie Burns, at left, oversaw the work of GM Pipelines crews working on the water system loop completion project in 2015. (News archive photo by diane Chiddister)

Village receives $1.2M for new water pipes

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With a $1.2 million grant from the state of Ohio in hand, residents living in older areas of town will soon see improved water volume when the village’s aging water pipes are replaced with brand new, six-inch pipes in the coming months. The grant was awarded through a $250 million statewide program funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Replacing the village’s eroding water pipes with new galvanized steel pipes is expensive, said Village Manager Josué Salmerón.

“Part of the reason it’s expensive is we kicked the can down the road by not investing in our infrastructure,” he said.

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According to Salmerón, replacing the lines will allow the Village to increase water volume to homes and provide cleaner water.

“It will reduce the stuff that floats in our water; they are new pipes that won’t be corroding, which will improve water quality,” he said.

Salmerón also said the new water lines will be lead free and installed in the front of each property as opposed to the back, and meter pits found inside many of the older homes will be moved to the outside.

“There’s a lot of advantage to this because during COVID, we’ve had a lot of challenges reading meters, because people don’t want us going into their homes,” he said.

Along with the addition of larger water pipes, five new fire hydrants will be installed: two on East Center College Street, two on Green and West South College streets, and one at Rice and President streets, improving the village’s fire safety options.

Project timeline

According to Public Works Director Johnnie Burns, the Village has known since the 1980s that the two-inch water pipes running through the community’s older neighborhoods would eventually need to be replaced.

The original plan for replacing the pipes was a phased approach, but the $1.2 million grant will allow the Village to accelerate the project and replace the pipes on a much faster timeline.

“The general idea is that we’ve been slowly changing pipes as they break, mainly because of finances. We’ve adopted the mindset that if it’s not broken don’t change it — but if it’s going to break, we better work on it before it breaks,” Salmerón said.

Burns said the Village is in the process of creating a request for proposal, or RFP, that will soon be publicized. After a two-to-three-week process of reviewing submitted proposals, a contractor will be selected to complete the project.

Though the Village had originally planned to begin the pipe replacement in July, Burns said he believes it is more likely to be an early 2023 start date, citing the difficulties of procuring infrastructure materials for the Village’s stormwater project. Burns ordered materials for that project two months ago and was given a five- to six-month timeline before the materials required to begin the project would be delivered. The stormwater project is not scheduled to begin until spring because of the materials delay, and supply chain issues are still irritants because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It will be March [or] April before I see my first piece of pipe,” Burns said.

Whenever the water pipe replacement project starts, it will be a six- to eight-month project and will require about a mile’s worth of pipes, Burns said.

Pipe installation impact

Burns said the number one thing that villagers should expect during installation of the pipes is coordination from the Village.

“[Villagers] won’t have interrupted service unless it is scheduled, and [interruptions] are adequately taken care of,” he said. “The new system will be up and running before the old system is taken out and we will make sure that we coordinate with every homeowner.”

According to Burns, water outages will be limited.

“There won’t be any ‘Hey, we are shutting your water down for a week.’ The biggest thing I want people to know is there will be plenty of coordination with the villagers that are affected by this. It is not going to be a spur of the moment, ‘Hey, you don’t have water’ situation,” Burns said.

He added that, once the system is replaced, villagers will be on a boil advisory for a few days after the pipes go online.

According to Salmerón, the groundwork is being laid now to resolve a long-running problem.

“We are taking care of the basics, and of course we are excited because the basics have been neglected for so long,” he said. “[Water] is such an essential service — everyone should have clean water, and not everyone does. There are a lot of Flint, Michigans all over the country.”

Salmerón was referring to the water crisis that upended Flint in 2014, when city officials switched the city’s water supply from the Detroit system to the Flint River water that was more corrosive and not treated properly — a violation of federal law. As a result of the failure to treat the water, lead from the city’s aging pipes contaminated the water flowing into thousands of homes.

“We in Yellow Springs should be grateful for the water that we have, because it’s damn good water in comparison to a lot of places,” Salmerón said.

Grant opportunities

The $1.2 million grant is one of a series of recent infrastructure awards received by the Village over the last two-and-a-half years, including a nearly $600,000 stormwater infrastructure improvement grant, a $1.6 million Ohio Department of Transportation grant to improve sidewalk and walking paths, and a $300,000 grant for the installation of free broadband service in the village.

Why is the Village getting more grants now than in the past, despite million-dollar grants not being easy to come by these days?

“For one, we are applying,” Salmerón said.

He used the analogy of soccer to describe the current Village situation.

“I was a soccer player — I haven’t touched a ball in two years because of COVID. Best way to score [is to] kick the ball toward the net — you have to take shots,” Salmerón said.

Salmerón was also highly complementary of Village staff, acknowledging the hard work completed over the past couple of years that he says is not always appreciated by some members of the community.

“We have a very talented team, and the level of expertise and quality of work we do now is unrivaled,” he said.


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