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Water tank work sparks concerns in Liberty

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 3:41 a.m.

A Pennsylvania-American Water Co. spokeswoman said on Thursday the utility properly notified Liberty residents and fire officials about the draining and repainting of a 560,000 gallon water storage tank.

“It is a water storage tank that serves that portion of our distribution system,” Josephine Posti said. “It is going through a routine repainting. We do that every 10 years or so.”

Posti said the utility was not required to contact borough officials about the work along Jeffrey Drive. “We did notify and worked closely with the local fire department. Residents should not see disruption in residential service. If there was a large fire, the fire department would have to have some alternative on standby.”

Liberty Borough Volunteer Fire Department said they were notified a couple weeks ago, in advance of the work.

“We added more tankers,” assistant Chief Jim Williams said. “They let us know they were going to have that tank out of service and we would have to provide additional water services.”

PAWC's decision not to contact the borough prompted Solicitor George Gobel to tell council members on Wednesday he would file a complaint with the Public Utility Commission.

“This is the first I heard of any concerns from the borough,” Posti said.

Borough secretary-treasurer Debbie Helderlein said two residents brought the tank work to council's attention.

“At least one residence was damaged,” Helderlein said. “They feel the process wasn't done correctly.”

Gobel could not be reached at presstime.

Posti said that damage had been referred to the utility's insurance company.

Both residents talking about the tank work at Wednesday's meeting told council they were not notified until four days after the work began.

“We did notify the neighbors who live around the tank,” Posti said. “We did notify them prior to the contractor beginning their work, just so they were aware of what was going on.”

Williams said there had been no problems so far and none were anticipated.

“It depends on how long the incident is,” the assistant chief said. “We can actually use the hydrants at the beginning and then we have to switch over to tanker water if we are going to be there a long time.”

The work includes draining the tank, sandblasting it inside and out, repairing any leaks or corrosion, and using multiple coats of paint.

“It usually takes a few weeks to complete the process,” the PAWC spokeswoman said. The aim of the work is “to make sure we are maintaining adequate flow,” especially when fires draw on that supply or during peak times, both in a 24-hour cycle and at different times of the year.

Posti said residents who experience problems during the work can call the water company at 800-565-7292.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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