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A bridge over troubled waters?

Published: Sun, August 24, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

By Bertram de Souza

As the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District launches a marketing campaign, it might want to consider the following slogan: Water, water everywhere, but not enough customers to drink.

The MVSD, which has been providing drinking water to its member cities of Youngstown and Niles for the past 75 years, is in the enviable position — compared with drought-ridden regions in the southwestern part of the country — of having a lot more product than is being used.

During the summer, the purification plant in Mineral Ridge can produce 60 million gallons of water a day, but the demand currently is for only 27 million. Three hundred thousand customers are served by the cities of Youngstown and Niles and the village of McDonald.

Chief Engineer Tom Holloway, whose great-uncle was superintendent from 1904 to 1954, says the MVSD has the ability to double the number of users. Of course, the reality of the Mahoning Valley is such that there is no conceivable way 300,000 more customers will be signed up in this region. (The emphasis on those three words will become clear shortly).

In addition to the overall decline in population, the MVSD faces competition from Aqua Ohio and also must find a way of winning over residents of Campbell, which has its own filtration plant, and Cortland, which utilizes well water

But those aren’t the only hurdles to expanding the customer base.

Youngstown vs. the burbs

The current flap over water involving the city of Youngstown and the suburban townships of Austintown, Boardman and now Liberty threatens to become a geyser.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, whose city is facing an economic implosion unless new sources of revenue are found, has turned water into an offensive weapon. Youngstown supplies drinking water to all of Austintown and portions of Boardman and Liberty.

In return, suburban customers pay a surcharge over the regular rates paid by city residents. But, Williams is of the opinion that his community deserves more. Thus, he wants to establish joint economic development districts in the suburbs so Youngstown can get tax revenue from businesses located in the JEDDs.

To date, his idea has gone over like a lead (water?) balloon.

Williams’ failure to get a JEDD in Liberty in the area that Wal-Mart is planning to build a superstore was a major defeat for the city of Youngstown. But the fight hasn’t ended.

Last week, Wal-Mart revealed that it would be putting its plans on hold because Youngstown’s water-use agreement requires that 25 percent of the jobs go to city residents.

Wal-Mart balked, thereby setting the stage for another rumble.

But while the battles rage, the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, which does not have an independent source of revenue and operates with money paid by Youngstown, Niles and McDonald for bulk purchases, has an excess of water just waiting to be sold.

Think big

Rather than fight over crumbs, there is an opportunity for this region to make a killing — from the sale of drinking water to customers outside Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

If, as Holloway says, the MVSD could take on another 300,000 customers, how difficult would it be for the MVSD, led by Youngstown and Niles, to identify communities around the country that are in dire need of drinking water and negotiate prices for trucking the wet stuff to them?

Given the long history of droughts in many parts of the U.S. and the resultant water shortages, just putting out the word nationally that the MVSD could supply about 30 million gallons a day would bring a flurry of inquiries from communities that are becoming dust bowls.

In the extreme, the Valley could use water as a bargaining chip — with a major casino operator in Las Vegas, which has long been on a water alert as a result of Lake Meade’s drying up.

In return for locating a casino in this region, the owner of Bellagio or some other water guzzling entity would have exclusive rights to MVSD’s supply for its Vegas properties.

Ridiculous? No more so than the water fight raging between Youngstown and the suburbs.

The Valley has a valuable resource. We need to think like the Arabs.


1Tugboat(759 comments)posted 7 years, 9 months ago

This piece was OK but would have liked to see "Gallitto the Paranoid" in its place this week. Then again, you could tie the two articles together. The self-obsessed vacuum could be used to transport the water to the drought-ridden areas of the US.

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2metz87(893 comments)posted 7 years, 9 months ago

It never helps to make everyone mad at you. That never works in your favor and anyone with a brain knows that. Now I still don't like the way Meaneder is like a prsion and this would be why. You can go to Houston and swim,boat,and pee in the water if you want to ad that water is drinking water for a couple million people not 300,000. That shows you that it is the people on the MVSD board are stuck back in the restictive 50's whe nthey built it ad that needs to change I tihnk i bet there are a heck of a lot of fish in there and yes too many can deplete the food supply and kil lthem off over time. It would be like having ants in yur house and you do nothing,beofre long your house would be overrun with ants. anyone remember the town that was there until hey opened the dam and the court battle to stop it? That town is still on the bottom of the lake since they got thier way. Why are we allowed to fish and swim at Lake Milton,West Branch,Berlin and Mosqito when they are used for drinking water in the Akron area?

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3NoBS(2692 comments)posted 7 years, 9 months ago

Metz, that's not so. Milton, West Branch, and Mosquito do not supply Akron with drinking water (do you even know where Mosquito IS?). Berlin has a four foot diameter pipe that can be used to augment Meander if needed, so the arguement can be made that Berlin supplies drinking water to Youngstown, et al.

Milton, Berlin, and West Branch were constructed to serve as flood control for the steel mills and other industry that were located along the Mahoning River. Milton is the oldest of the three.

And if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not drink water that people have been polluting with gasoline and oil, throwing trash into, and dumping their bodily wastes into. You can drink that, if you want to. Just go have a sip of Mahoning River water.

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4metz87(893 comments)posted 7 years, 9 months ago

They do sue them for drinking water although the main purpsoe is for flood contorl. And siicne it will always have some pollution form the treatment palnt to the sink I stil lsay it is wrong. ot everyone builds a fence around thier drinking water you know. They also have lakes that the public can use near New York City. That is my main point and I know where Mosiqiuto iss it feeds into Meander and is near Cortland i nTrumbull county. You can bet some of that water we end up drinking i nsome form or another.

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5NoBS(2692 comments)posted 7 years, 9 months ago

It DOES? Here I thought Meander's dam was on the north end of that reservoir, and it flowed north into the Mahoning River, while Mosquito's dam was on the south end of that reservoir, flowing south into the Mahoning River, about a quarter mile upstream of where Meander's outflow enters the river.

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6metz87(893 comments)posted 7 years, 9 months ago

Sothey enter near the sam point then? Ok,then do a study which water is more polluted Mosquito or Meander and see how the reslut comes out. Don't forget all the agicutural runoff that goes into Meander and soeme of that is bound to get into the drinking water. It tastes funny sometiem and whiel that may not mean a thing,it could.

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7Mimi2BC(147 comments)posted 7 years, 9 months ago

Meander water has been known to have a slight cucumber taste to it due to a cold water algae... maybe that's the funny taste you've experienced, metz.

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8MPur1021240(15 comments)posted 7 years, 9 months ago

What Mayor Jay Williams is doing is blackmailing surrounding townships using water as his weapon of choice. Liberty already agreed to a JEDD with the city on all UNDEVELOPED land within the township or so I have heard, perhaps wrongly.
This is going against the agreement that has been in place for Youngstown to provide water to the Township for 50 years. The issue isn't about running pipe lines. Those are in place and have been for years!
Perhaps what we need to do over here is have a JEDD between Liberty, Girard, Niles etc. and replace the damn at Girard Lake making it our water supply and tell JEDD-EYE JAY jump in his lake!

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9metz87(893 comments)posted 7 years, 9 months ago

Good one Like Stars Wars. lol. Well someone should tell him in his face not now not never!

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10henryviii1509(274 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

The funny taste from Meanders water comes from an overpopulation of whitetailed deer. a.k.a. DEER WHIZ

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11metz87(893 comments)posted 7 years, 8 months ago

Which has to do with no hunting or fishing or anything there.

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