Water board weighing street leaf removal program

January 23, 2019

HUNTINGTON — The Huntington Water Quality Board is still evaluating whether it should start a street leaf removal program.

It would be costly, but the program would be a trade-off for the cost of damages that leaves impose on storm lines and pump stations, said Executive Director Brian Bracey.

During a November board meeting, members questioned if the cost of removing leaves from city streets would be comparable to the cost of repairs at the wastewater treatment plant caused by the uncollected leaves.

Wes Leek, director of the Huntington Sanitary Board, said it would cost $565,572 for two 30-yard leaf vacuums, two single-axle dump trucks, two equipment operators, two truck drivers and two laborers. That estimate does not factor insurance, fuel or disposal costs, he said.

The city’s option for disposal would be at the landfill, which charges $26 a ton for leaves and other debris.

Leek said he didn’t have cost estimates relating to potential damage the leaves cause the wastewater system. He will develop those estimates and return to the board during its February meeting.

The damage caused by leaves, sticks and other debris could be significant in the long term, Bracey said.

“There is some detriment to the deterioration to the lines and putting havoc on our pump system itself,” Bracey said.

However, he said there is a question on who should be responsible for such a program, the Huntington Public Works Department or the Water Quality Board.

Bracey said the West Virginia Public Service Commission, which regulates sanitary boards throughout the state, has decided storm catch basins and storm lines are not within its authority.

“It’s not a function that the Public Service Commission has assigned to the sanitary boards,” he said. ”(It’s) the reason why sanitary boards don’t do this.”

No other sanitary boards in the state offer a street removal program. The closest program he could find is in Westerville, Ohio, a northeastern suburb of Columbus.

That program is operated by the city and not by the city’s sanitary board, he said. The Ohio program costs between $600,000 and $700,000 to operate each year, which Bracey said the city deemed necessary because it has to maintain newer roads.

In Huntington, the question would be if that kind of money could be better spent by public works on road paving and pothole repair instead.

“Is this our responsibility or is this the city’s to ensure that we don’t have damage to our lines,” Bracey asked.

Bracey said he is having conversations with Jim Insco, director of the city’s public works, to examine the feasibility of starting the program.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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