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$6.7M loan will help replace pipeline

| Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A $6.7 million state loan will help the New Kensington water authority fund the replacement of 7 miles of pipeline in three cities as well as a 2-mile water-line extension in Allegheny Township.

“What we're going to do is replace a lot of very old lines that we have constant breaks on,” said Ron Zampogna, authority board chairman. “We've been trying for the last several years to do that.”

Authority Manager Jim Matta said water lines along 21 roads in Arnold, Lower Burrell and New Kensington will be replaced, including Craigdell Road on the Lower Burrell-New Kensington border, Chester Drive in Lower Burrell, Kimball Avenue in Arnold, Sixth Avenue in Parnassus and parts of Freeport Road in Arnold and New Kensington.

Upgrades are planned for the filter controls at the H. Burns Smith water treatment plant along the Allegheny River in New Kensington.

Additionally, the authority will extend water service to about 62 houses along Melwood, White Cloud and Smail roads in Allegheny Township that rely on water wells.

The new Allegheny Township customers will be charged a quarterly rate predicted to be in the range of $88 to $103, Matta said. They will be charged a $2,350 one-time fee to tap into the lines.

Matta said the loan will cover the anticipated cost of the projects, which will not require a rate increase for the authority's existing 15,000 or so customers in Allegheny Township, Arnold, Lower Burrell, New Kensington, Plum, Upper Burrell and Washington Township. The average customer pays about $76 per quarter for water service, Matta said.

“We put this project together anticipating these interest rates so that it would be absorbed into our budget without any rate increase,” Matta said. “We're pleased with the rate.”

The Pennsylvania Infrastructure and Investment Authority board (PennVEST) on Wednesday approved the 20-year loan that will offer an interest rate of about 1.4 percent for the first 5 years and about 2 percent for the remaining 15 years.

It was one of 17 projects statewide to receive Penn-VEST money in the latest funding round. A total of $53 million in mostly loans and a few grants was awarded; the Municipal Authority of New Kensington received the second-largest funding package of the group.

Other regional projects included $5 million in loans to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority for improvements to storm sewers; about $3.4 million in a loan-grant combination to the Hawthorn-Redbank Municipal Authority to extend sewers in Redbank, Armstrong County; and more than $3 million to Saltsburg in Indiana County for a sewage treatment plant.

“The PennVEST Board of Directors (on Wednesday) committed millions of dollars of precious financial resources in order to improve the environment and lay the foundation for economic growth,” Gov. Tom Corbett said. “Communities all across the commonwealth will benefit from this investment.”

“This particular project will replace more than 38,200 feet of old cast iron water lines in the system,” said Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, of the New Kensington authority's project. “Aging water lines have become a major liability, and the water lines in the area have suffered numerous leaks and breaks causing damage to streets and service disruptions. The water line renovations in New Kensington will reduce the number of water outages, ensure adequate water supply to suppress fires during emergencies and eliminate the 23 percent water loss that currently occurs.”

“I feel we were very fortunate to be able to get this money at such a low interest rate,” Zampogna said.

Matta said he anticipates the authority will begin seeking bids from prospective contractors by the end of the year and be ready to start construction in the spring. He estimated the work would be completed by the end of 2014.

Zampogna said the authority tries to use in-house workers to complete smaller projects to minimize costs, as they did on recent projects on Alcoa Drive in Arnold and Donnell Road in Lower Burrell.

Not only should replacing the aging lines help minimize the possibility of breaks that could disrupt customer service, Matta said, but it should minimize costs by reducing the amount of water lost and the amount of overtime hours paid to employees fixing breaks.

“We're trying to aggressively take care of our infrastructure,” Matta said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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