September 21, 2009

IRONTON — Mayor Rich Blankenship knows that infrastructure is one of the main things companies ask about when looking to move into a community. And it’s one reason he’s feeling good about what’s happening in the Ohio River town.

The city plans to start on a $10 million project next month to reline 60 miles of the city’s sanitary sewers. The project will provide some 50 jobs for about a year, some of them going to a local subcontractor, Blankenship said Friday.

Half of the project cost for what Doug Cade, an Ironton engineer with the firm of E.L. Robinson, calls a green project is coming from federal stimulus funds. The other half will come from a low-interest loan, he said.

The federal stimulus money didn’t come without a fight. The city initially was turned down on its grant request earlier this year. Blankenship didn’t accept the rebuff. He called Gov. Ted Strickland and went to Columbus to appeal the decision.

“I knew we had a good project,” Blankenship said. “These are our needs, not our wants. This project will benefit the city for the long term. It will extend the life of the sewers by 40 years.”

The city hasn’t yet worked out the details on how to kick off the project starting the first week in October. A bunch of officials pushing around shovels filled with dirt won’t work since the work is being done in city sewers and manholes.

“We won’t be disturbing the ground or tearing up city streets,” Cade said. “It’s environmentally friendly. It will eliminate a lot of the groundwater inflow.” The city still will have to pursue a separate project that could cost up to $18 million to separate the stormwater drains and sanitary sewers, he said.

The Cured In Place Pipe project calls for a material rolled out like a firehose to be inserted in the sewers and hot steam will be run through it, allowing it to be expand to form a new sewer line inside the brick-and-concrete sewers, some of which are likely 100 years old or more, Cade said.

Reynolds Inliner of Hilliard, Ohio, was awarded the contract for the yearlong project. Fee Corp. of Ironton, a subcontractor, also will have some people working on the project, Cade said.

The city will have to borrow some $5 million to match the federal stimulus grant. It can take a 3.35 percent, 20-year loan through the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency or try to get a lower rate or a longer payback period.

“We’re trying to get a lower interest rate,” Blankenship said. “We should hear something by mid-October.”

Another part of the project calls for a non-toxic, non-hazardous material to be sprayed in city manholes, Cade said. The material does give off an unpleasant odor, he said.

The city also has put a new water tank in service, a move that is saving some 600,000 gallons of processed water per day. It replaces a leaky water tank built in 1920. The city got a $300,000 grant, a $300,000 low-interest loan and had to borrow another $1.5 million to build the new tank.

The new tank, however, has allowed the city to cut down on producing clean water, saving chemicals and electricity. The water plant currently is running about six and a half hours a day compared to 14 hours per day with the old tank, Cade said.

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