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Water board requests guidance on repairs

September 12, 2018

HUNTINGTON — Huntington City Council members have been asked by the Huntington Water Quality Board to help decide which ongoing flooding and stormwater problems within their districts should take priority for repairs.

Council members were given maps showing the problem areas Monday night — part of a new mission to increase communication between council members and the Water Quality Board. The board is an umbrella organization overseeing the city’s sewer operations, stormwater collection and floodwall operations, said Brian Bracey, executive director.

Council members are often the first people constituents call for flooding and stormwater problems. The maps will help show them the Water Quality Board is aware of a lot of the problem areas and is working to address them, Bracey said.

The problems identified on the map are given a score based on the required level of response, with five being “critical health hazards” and a score of one being “low-hanging fruit.” Problems rated four or five take the highest priority and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is notified. Those problems are fixed before others, he said.

The problems rated three or below, the “nuisance problems,” have some wiggle room in what order they are repaired. That’s when city council members can have a say, Bracey said.

Council members may identify some of the nuisance problems that should take priority, particularly ones they receive a lot of calls about or ones that have needed repairs for years.

Bracey said the Water Quality Board has not sought the involvement of city council like this before, but felt communication had been lacking in the past. Council members can now see what tasks Bracey and his crew are dealing with.

Hopefully, perception of the Water Quality Board might change once people visualize the 390 miles of pipelines the crew is responsible for and the number of problems it has identified left to fix, he said.

“We have over 300 ongoing work orders, and we have to get to them one at a time,” he said.

The city’s biggest obstacle is the aging infrastructure of its water and sewer systems, with some lines dating back to the 1800s, he said. These types of system-wide problems are plaguing municipalities throughout the East Coast, which have not undergone significant upgrades in years.

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘How do we do replacement in the future and repair what we currently have?’ ” he said. “At the same time, we have to keep the public protected.”

City council members are expected to give Bracey their recommendations at a later date.

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

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