Broken waterlines keep Valley crews busy

Staff report


This week’s cold snap caused numerous water-main breaks under streets and broken pipes in public buildings.

Three pipes froze and burst, causing flooding in the Mahoning County jail building Wednesday evening and Thursday.

One break was in the basement near electrical equipment and computer servers that operate the jail’s automatic door-opening system.

Because of that break, staff shut down the automatic jail door operating system as a precaution; the inmates were locked down in their cells; visitation was suspended; all jail doors were operated manually; and extra deputies were put on duty in the jail, Sheriff Jerry Greene said. There was never any threat to jail security, he said.

Also affected were the jail entrance lobby and some hallways and the detective division and records department. An insurance adjuster viewed the damage Thursday, but the sheriff said he could not provide a dollar estimate for the flood damage.

Breaks forced closings of some schools and Mahoning County’s Oakhill Renaissance Place.

The Oakhill government office complex at 345 Oak Hill Ave. was closed Thursday due to bursting of an 8-inch water supply line Wednesday afternoon in the sub-basement.

The complex will reopen this morning, county Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said.

Robert E. Bush Jr., director of the Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services, said he learned of the break at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, and the complex closed 30 to 40 minutes later.

Because water flooded some of the elevator shafts, Bush said Pete Triveri, county facilities director, told people in the building not to use the elevators. Water and boilers had to be shut off, and electricity had to be cut off in part of the complex.

County maintenance crews worked throughout the night and Thursday to repair the damage.

The Oakhill break occurred on county property and not in the city-maintained system.

Youngstown system

Joe Dunlap, the city water department’s construction superintendent, said water-main breaks are more common in cold weather. “As the ground freezes, it moves” and breaks mains at their weak spots, he explained.

“The majority of the breaks are in cast-iron mains,” some of which are 100 or more years old in the city system, he said.

City water crews were working round the clock for two days this week to repair cold-related water-main breaks, Dunlap said.

“We are pretty much caught up,” Dunlap said Thursday as water was being turned back on after a Wednesday evening water-main break at Crum and Meridian roads.

The water department has been “inundated” in recent days with calls pertaining to the freezing of water service lines and meters along the outside walls of buildings, which are the building owner’s responsibility, Dunlap said.

The Youngstown water supply system contains about 750 miles of pipe, of which about 400 miles are cast iron, with the oldest cast-iron pipe being of 1890s vintage, said Gene Leson, chief engineer for the city water department. Cast-iron pipe hasn’t been installed here since the 1960s.

The city’s water distribution system serves Youngstown, Boardman, Austintown, Canfield Township and parts of Mineral Ridge and Liberty.

“We’ve been replacing about a mile a year” of water supply pipe, Leson said.

Breaks are most frequent in 6-inch lines, which tend to be more fragile than larger lines, which are stronger and can take more pressure from freezing and thawing ground, Leson said.

In Warren

Ten water-main breaks occurred since Sunday night in Warren, three of which happened Thursday and will be repaired sometime Friday, said Bob Davis, city director of water utilities.

Ten breaks in less than a week is an unusually large number. There were 12 in December, and the average is about 50 to 100 per year, Davis said.

Warren has about 300 miles of water mains, some of which are replaced each year. Most Warren water mains are 50 to 60 years old. “We have an aging infrastructure,” Davis said.

The breaks since Sunday included two on Adelaide Avenue Southeast and Northeast, two on Ewalt Avenue Northeast, one on Clermont Avenue Northeast, 2790 Youngstown Road Southeast, Maryland Street Northwest, Comstock Street Northwest, Oak Knoll Avenue and Northfield Avenue Northwest.

The STEAM Academy of Warren, 261 Elm Road NE, had a water-pipe break inside the building that canceled classes Thursday, but the pipe was repaired, and school will reopen Friday, school officials said.

Boardman, Poland

Poland schools were closed Wednesday and one building remained closed Thursday because of damage caused by frozen pipes.

“We have a boiler system with water running through the pipes,” said Superintendent David Janofa.

The pipes froze and then broke, causing problems on the first and third floors of McKinley Elementary School and a room in North Elementary. Dobbins Elementary also sustained heating problems, leading Janofa to close it Wednesday.

All of the schools except McKinley reopened Thursday. Work continues to clean up and repair the heating system in that building.

Boardman schools didn’t encounter any waterline breaks when buildings reopened Wednesday, but there were some minor weather-related issues.

“The buses all started up, but the buses all have the stop signs that flip out on the side in addition to the flashing lights,” said Superintendent Frank Lazzeri. “Some of the those were frozen in place.”

One of the pipes in the fire suppression system at North Elementary School in East Liverpool broke Tuesday evening, spraying water into the school’s computer lab, library and office. Classes were canceled Wednesday but resumed Thursday.

“Not too many computers were damaged, only about a half dozen,” said Superintendent James Herring. “Our concern is the wiring and conduit for the computers is under the floors and it was just full of water.”

An insurance adjuster visited the school Thursday.

None of the buildings in use in Youngstown School District suffered any waterline breaks, but the P. Ross Berr building, on the city’s East Side, vacant this school year, did.

Harry Evans, the district’s chief of operations, said a Thursday morning check found the broken pipe. Ceiling tiles and insulation were damaged by the water and crews were cleaning up the damage.

Boardman Township was hit by problems with frozen pipes and related issues:

• A sprinkler in the main meeting room of the township government center broke because of a frozen pipe, causing damage to the ceiling tiles and carpeting Wednesday, said Jason Loree, township administrator.

• A pipe in the road department burst late Wednesday, dumping 3 inches of water into parts of that building and damaging telephone and computer lines.

“They’re in complete cleanup mode,” Loree said.

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