Pressure rises on Girard to fix Liberty water woes
By robert Guttersohn
Inconsistent water pressure for the township’s 1,000 residents who get Girard water is nothing new, the trustees said.
But in the past three to four months, they said the amount of time with decreased pressure or no water at all has increased.
“It’s a constant grind,” Trustee Stan Nudell said. “Girard tells us that they are improving it, but we still haven’t seen the results of this. I remember a few months ago there was one week when we couldn’t even take a shower.”
Trustee Jodi Stoyak said some mornings, without warning, the water will be out completely.
“We in Liberty Township pay a higher price for water than anyone in Trumbull County,” Stoyak said. “I feel like we are stuck.”
Liberty is fed water from two cities: Girard and Youngstown. Trumbull County owns the lines and has a contract with Niles to provide water to Girard. Girard residents pay 40 percent more for using Niles’ water.
Girard, with its distribution center, provides water to Liberty residents, who pay an additional 40 percent to Girard and are bound by contract to do so for the next eight years. Those living in the southern region of Liberty pay only a 40 percent surcharge to Youngstown.
Girard does not deny there are some water-pressure problems.
“We are trying to solve the problem without destroying the system,” Girard Mayor James Melfi said. “It’s indicative by looking at the number of water breaks that have occurred in the quest to do that.”
Earlier in August, Girard sought to increase pressure to Liberty neighborhoods set on the eastern ends of the water system. But after increasing the pressure, several of the lines — some as old as 60 years — gave in, resulting in nine line breaks within a three- to four-day period.
“East Drive broke in six different places in one day,” said Jerry Lambert, Girard’s director of public services. He referred to it as a “domino effect.”
Lambert said there were breaks at two places on Church Hill Road and one on Belmont Avenue by Interstate 80.
“I think what people need to realize is that in order to make the entire water system more efficient for all of our customers, there are going to be trial and errors,” Lambert said.
He said they do not understand why certain lines in Liberty have more pressure than others, but Lambert hopes that by tapping into a county waterline that runs down Belmont Avenue, they will increase pressure to the northeast portion of Liberty.
“Once we do that, the water-pressure problem in Liberty will be moot,” Lambert said. “It’s not something that can be accomplished in one day.”
“We’re in contact with Girard quite a bit,” Nudell said. “They have identified the problem, but it’s not gone away.”
“As a board, first we’d like to see good water pressure, consistent water pressure,” Stoyak said. “And second, if the [Trumbull County commissioners] could possibly break the contract, we could get our water from Niles.”
But Liberty sees this as a last resort, considering the legal action required to break the contract and bypass payment to Girard, which has the distribution center within its limits.
“If you are going to take the responsibility of providing water to municipalities, you need to have the manpower, you need to have the wherewithal,” Stoyak said.