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Utilities in Valley invest millions in upgrades

Millions of dollars were invested into power, gas, water and sewer providers to bolster and modernize their service systems in 2020, and greater investment is on the horizon this year.

Ohio Edison, Dominion Energy and several local utilities all have plans in the works or on the drawing boards.

OHIO EDISON

As the viral outbreak forced people to spend more time at home, Ohio Edison focused on revamping its service.

The company completed grid modernization, improving electric service reliability for more than 200,000 customers in the Mahoning Valley, according to spokeswoman Lauren Siburkis.

Also, more than 20 new automated reclosing devices, which operate similar to a circuit breaker in a home, were installed, limiting frequency, duration and scope of some service interruptions. In addition, 11 miles of existing power lines were replaced with a thicker, more durable wire and new utility poles were installed to support the new lines.

“Investing in our infrastructure is crucial because it will help reduce the number of customers impacted by storm outages as well as shorten the length of outages when they do occur,” Siburkis said.

The utility company is also performing work that will align with economic growth locally.

Installation of a substation and transmission line will provide electricity to Ultium Cells LLC, which “will also strengthen the regional transmission system and benefit more than 15,000 Ohio Edison customers in Lordstown and neighboring communities,” Siburkis said.

DOMINION ENERGY OHIO

Natural-gas provider Dominion Energy Ohio last year invested more than $14 million to replace 73,866 feet of pipeline in Mahoning County.

In the future, the utility plans to invest more than $23.4 million to replace 111,492 feet of line this year for Pipeline Infrastructure Replacement projects in the Valley.

This is part of a program launched in 2008 to spend $4 billion to replace more than 5,500 miles of the company’s 22,000-mile pipeline system.

Mahoning County will have 21 projects in five communities, replacing nearly 80,000 feet of pipeline. Those areas include Youngstown, Boardman, Poland, Campbell and Austintown.

In 2020, Dominion committed to “a net zero framework,” where methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure will decrease by 65 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2040.

This bests a commitment made in 2019 to reduce methane emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

Those goals will be achieved by reducing or eliminating gas venting during planned maintenance inspections, replacing targeted infrastructure and equipment with lower-emission equipment, expanding leak detection and repair programs and innovation and technical excellence.

Through its efforts, Dominion has prevented 260,000 metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere since 2010, the company said. That is equivalent to 110 million new trees, or 1.4 million non-electric vehicles off the road for one year.

LOCAL UTILITIES

In Youngstown, Public Works Deputy Director Charles Shasho said various projects were mandated in the Youngstown Wastewater Treatment Plant’s long-term control plan.

Many improvements are wrapping up after about $70 million was invested at the treatment plant, including upgraded electrical infrastructure, upgraded trickling filters, aeration system and upgraded capacity at the pump station, Shasho said.

The plant services 22,000 residents in the city, with an additional 24,000 people elsewhere in the Valley, Shasho said.

Following a lull last year, this year will be a game of catch-up for the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, said chief engineer Jim Jones.

Projects will include a $1.2 million addition of chemical bulk feed tanks. “It’s an improvement we’ve added,” in which 300-gallon tanks will be fed permanently through trucks.

A stand-by generator for $4 million will be added as a backup should the plant lose power. Also, valves in the transmission system will be replaced. That project is in the design phase, Jones said.

The district is looking to secure grants and loan funding to make improvements to its 100-year-old dam, Jones said, with the anticipation of beginning that process this month. That project should be out to bid by year’s end.

The MVSD serves 220,000 customers through 27.4 miles of pipeline out of the Meander Reservoir.

Aqua Ohio — a water provider that serves 23,000 customers in Masury, Campbell, Struthers, Lowellville, New Middletown, Beaver, Boardman, Canfield Coitsville, Poland and Springfield — started $14 million in upgrades to a treatment plant in Poland.

Replacing aging equipment will allow for “modernized processes” that will meet future supply and regulation demands, said spokesman Jeff LaRue.

The Boardman-based water company also announced Bob Davis has become president, succeeding Ed Kolodziej.

In 2020, the ABC Stormwater District, which is comprised of Austintown, Boardman and Canfield townships, obtained grants for large projects coming this year to Boardman.

“Last year we applied for and received grant money to start taking down homes in Boardman, which we’re going to do this year” once the grant money from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is released, said Jason Loree, district board member and township administrator for Boardman.

Roughly $1 million in grants will acquire and demolish seven homes in the flood plane along the Cranberry Run watershed.

Eminent domain was not part of the process, Loree said, and the homeowners are on board with the project. Once the homes come down, restoration to natural stream flow will alleviate flooding by expanding the flood plain, Loree said.

afox@vindy.com

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