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Print Exclusive: Critical repairs needed for sewer system, officials say

Jan. 27, 2013 @ 08:40 AM

HUNTINGTON — Huntington’s wastewater treatment plant and its outlying system are suffering from years of neglect and facing critical upgrades that total more than $50 million.

That’s the message Huntington Sanitary Board officials sent to newly elected Mayor Steve Williams last week during his inaugural meeting as chairman of the agency’s three-member board.

“Having served on City Council, I knew we had problems and work to do,” Williams said. “But to hear from engineers that the plant is so antiquated that they consider it the worst in the state and the entire region is concerning.”

The main treatment plant along the Ohio River in Huntington’s Westmoreland neighborhood was built in 1964 and a connected secondary treatment facility, a result of tighter federal environmental regulations and largely paid for with federal funds, was constructed in 1984. But the recurring theme throughout the treatment system, says Sanitary Board Executive Director Kit Anderson, is that replacement projects and the processes required to accommodate those projects have not been made a priority.

“We have no bypass systems for several critical components,” Anderson said during a tour of the treatment plant with reporters last week. “You just can’t shut down a wastewater treatment plant or a pump station for a few weeks to make repairs if there’s no bypass system. So, we’re having to build bypass systems before we can get to the real problem.”

Anderson reported during the Sanitary Board meeting last week that the wastewater treatment plant alone is in need of about $40 million in repairs. The estimates come from engineering firms that have been working with the Sanitary Board on a long-term upgrade plan.

“Most other treatment plants I’ve seen that are 50 years old and serve a similar-sized population have been updated for years now,” said Pat Taylor, a senior engineer with Potesta & Associates in Charleston. “With the exception of a few things, Huntington’s plant has not been updated. The overall condition should be a major concern.

Read more about the condition of the plant, needed upgrades and costs involved in the print edition of The Herald-Dispatch or the online e-paper.

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