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Elkins Water Issues

City dealing with line breaks, flooding

Submitted photo About 2 million gallons of water were lost Sunday afternoon when a 12-inch water line broke on Worth Avenue in Elkins, city officials said.

ELKINS — A “widespread water disruption” in Second and Third Wards occurred Sunday afternoon due to a break in a 12-inch water line on Worth Avenue, officials said.

About 2 million gallons of water were lost in one hour due to the waterline break, according to a social media post by the City of Elkins at about 2 p.m. Sunday.

“Because of this, customers across the city may have noticed loss of pressure and/or discoloration because of how much water the system dumped in such a short amount of time,” the post stated. “The actual number of customers served by the 12-inch line is small and all located along Worth and Industrial Park Road.”

At about 8 p.m., a city press release stated that while repairs were underway, water would be off to some customers on Reed Street, Worth Avenue, and the Industrial Park Road between Gorman Avenue and 11th Street.

“After repairs are complete and service has been restored, a Boil Water Notice will be in effect for these customers,” the release stated. “The earliest that laboratory testing can be completed and the notice lifted is Tuesday.”

The Inter-Mountain photo by Edgar Kelley Employees with the City of Elkins work to repair a water line break on Worth Avenue Sunday afternoon. The break caused widespread disruption in the Second and Third Ward districts of town, officials said.

Officials also thanked Smith Backhoe for assisting city employees during the waterline break response.

Earlier, Whitney Hymes, the chief operator of the Elkins sewer utility, provided a public update concerning “recent extraordinary rain events in Elkins, obstacles for storm water management, and next steps that are being planned to continue making improvements.”

“The past few months have exhibited extremely extraordinary rain events for the Elkins area. These unprecedented influxes of precipitation are causing system overloads,” Hymes stated.

“Usually, overload issues are relieved by permitted discharges located throughout the City. These permitted overflows are designed to help reduce any potential flooding or surcharges involved with the Sanitary Sewer system. These abnormal rain events experienced are surging the system and are maxing design capacities.

“The City of Elkins has been working diligently to improve system flaws throughout past years,” Hymes said. “These developments are very exhaustive and expensive and must be completed in ‘Phases’ to provide a cost-effective solution to not only the City but also to the residents that will ultimately be responsible. The City began these ‘Phase Projects’ with the initial ‘Phase I Project,’ which began in 2015. The ‘Phase II Project’ was just completed in 2021 and is still undergoing finalization.

“Comparing dates, the duration of a Phase Project can take anywhere from 3-5 years. The length of time is due to the thorough work it takes for design, execution and completion. At this time, there have not been any designated areas chosen for the upcoming Phase III project.

“City personnel and collaborating partners are in the beginning stages of identifying areas impacted the most to provide the most success for the system and the best cost-effective strategy for residents,” Hymes wrote. “State and federal guidelines also play a large factor as to what can and cannot be implemented in the system. Since it is not feasible to have one project covering the entire City, the Phase III Project will not be the last progress seen. Numerous Phase Projects throughout future years will provide a cost-effective option for City residents.

“A short-term solution that may help alleviate flooding issues would be to remove downspouts/roof drains from the Sanitary Sewer. Removal of excess storm water from the Sanitary Sewer will aid in the control of overload issues. Please note, if downspout/roof drain removal is completed, consideration should be followed for any neighboring properties or locations.”

The “short-term solution” offered by Hymes was the subject of some ridicule online.

“I’m not a structural engineer but I’m not going to untie my drains from the sewer and then be responsible for any yard flooding to my neighbors,” Sonya Phares posted on Facebook. “Plus the water that would accumulate around my foundation has to go somewhere…..we have had a lot of flooding, flowing mini rivers, in our yards in South Elkins and some of the storm drains have been caving in….

“This should be simple general maintenance and the project phases are decades overdue….fiscal responsibility,” Phares wrote. “I thank everyone who is working on this project but I will not be untying my drains.”

Last week the Elkins Water Board recommended an “emergency rate increase” of 32 percent for city water customers an increase Elkins City Council may approve as soon as Sept. 15.

Officials said the increase is essential to avoid insolvency in response to regulatory changes and increases in supply costs.

The rate increase would become effective immediately upon passage. An additional 3 percent increase would become effective in the summer of 2023.

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