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Cities deal with aging infrastructure; push underway to replace water and sewer lines

Mansfield passes rate increase to fund repairs and replacement
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Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-02 19:01:04-05

MANSFIELD, Ohio — They are out of sight and out of mind, but more and more city sewer and water lines are aging and decaying and prompting conversations in Northeast Ohio.

News 5 went through boil order areas, water service shut downs and related road closures in Mansfield in the last year and found water and sewer crews kept busy with repairs impacting more than 200 streets, some more than once.

Steve Brown serves as Mansfield’s operations supervisor.

"Infrastructure is something almost out of sight, out of mind," he explained.

Brown showed News 5 how his department uses underground cameras almost every day to traverse narrow pipes that need the most attention.

"[Pipes] downtown I wouldn't doubt are easily 100 years old," he said. "We do the best we can with what we have to work with."

Brown told News 5 the long-term goal in the city is to replace its four-inch pipes with eight-inch pipes.

When asked about the abundance of alerts the city issues when it comes to water repairs, Brown emphasized it's all about keeping the community apprised of the work being done.

"We do it to keep people informed as much as possible," he said.

During a December City Council meeting, a city engineer detailed how those four-inch pipes were installed between the late 1800s and 1938 and make up more than 15% of the city’s 300 miles of water lines. Bianchi went on to say how the buildup inside of those smaller pipes can mean even less water passing through in some spots.

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"Those pipes are still in the ground today, 60 miles," he said. "The concern when the fire department pulls up to a hydrant connected to a four-inch main, no water comes out. No water. That's the concern because the four-inch mains have been in the ground for so long. We need to prepare to start replacing these four-inch mains. We need to plan ahead and make sure that we don't have a situation in 10-20 years where we have got a disaster on our hands."

Last month, a water rate increase to help fund improvements passed 7-1.

The words “relic” and “artifact” aren’t exactly what Lakeeron Lane likes to hear when referring to the water and sewer pipes below his Benton Street home.

From his porch, Lane showed News 5 the water department barrels surrounding a new development project to the south of his home, and a "Road Closed" sign for a hole in the road to the north.

"Once here and there, [there would be] something wrong with the water pipes," Lane explained. "Down here, they had a flood a year and half ago. It was a lot of water, they had to come and shut the whole street off."

Mansfield is not the only city addressing this issue. Others include Lakewood, which announced last year plans to use $25 million of its rescue plan money to upgrade its sewer and water, with the intent of saving $50 million through 2040 by a reduction in previously approved water/sewer rates.

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