SHAMOKIN — Officials from Fairchild Brothers Inc. (FBI), GHD and Aqua were contacted Thursday afternoon for comments regarding the ongoing water main replacement project work being done along Lincoln Street. Sections of the roadway near city hall have been periodically closed for the past several weeks, with openly milled areas several inches deep remaining accessible to motor vehicle traffic between Eighth and Market streets.
Chris Sauers, project manager at Fairchild, indicated by phone that the contractor intends to have all water main replacement work along Lincoln and Eighth streets completed by the start of the school year.
“We’ve just finished milling and hope to have everything repaved along Lincoln Street between Liberty and Eighth streets by Monday,” said Sauers.
While GHD officials declined to comment on the project, Aqua Communications Manager Donna Alston issued a statement which read, “The project began in May and is replacing 4,100 feet of old cast iron pipe that varies between 6 and 12 inches in diameter, with 4,400 feet of ductile iron pipe ranging from 8 to 12 inches in diameter. Paving will take a few weeks to complete but we will be repaving Lincoln Street between Market and Liberty streets and Eighth Street between Lincoln and Church streets prior to the opening of local schools. Repaving has begun on this $600,000 project that replaced aging water main pipes on those two sections, plus the following other streets in Shamokin: North Grant Street between Lincoln and Birch streets; Marshall Street between Birch and Spurzheim streets; Birch and Elm streets between Grant and Marshall streets; and East Church Street between Eighth and Marshall streets.”
Alston indicated that the project will also include a second phase, which will replace nearly 4,000 additional feet of main on Rock Street between Spurzheim and Pine streets and on Spurzheim between Liberty and Shamokin streets. She did not, however, elaborate on when that phase would begin or how long it may take.
“There is currently another project going on nearby that we refer to as Tharptown Phase 1. It is about 30 percent complete and is replacing 5,400 feet of old 6- and 8-inch cast iron main with new 8-inch ductile iron pipe in the east end of Tharptown on Tharp, Lott and Stevens streets,” she said.
As to the reason for the main replacements, Alston said that Aqua is replacing old cast iron and other types of main that have approached the end of their useful life.
“The primary benefits of the main replacement program is increased reliability by reducing the potential for service interruptions due to main breaks, increased capacity and flow in cases where a larger main is replacing a smaller main, and the reduction in the potential for discolored water as we replace cast iron main, which allows for iron deposits to build up on the interior of the main. Ductile iron main has a cement mortar lining that does not allow for the buildup of iron deposits inside the main. This is good for water quality as well as flow, because these deposits reduce the interior diameter of the main and can reduce flow,” she stated.
Meanwhile, many local residents had more questions than answers, and were visibly frustrated by the lack of communication with them up front about the nature of the project and what hardships it would result in. They indicated it’s not that they didn’t appreciate the fact that the replacement work was being done, but were more upset with the manner in which the contractor was performing it.
In particular, a group of residents who live along East Lincoln Street between Eighth and Grant streets said that they were particularly bothered not only by the length of time the project has dragged on for (three months) but also the fact that the same areas keep getting dug back up after apparently being completed.
Another area of concern was the deplorable condition that Lincoln Street was left in for several days until late Thursday afternoon, with one section from Eighth to Market Street being milled out at a significant depth in random patchwork patterns, making for dangerous driving conditions.
“It’s been going on forever. Every time we have to go out anywhere we need to find a different route,” said Paulette Reitz.
Vince Brokus said that he was tired of the repetition. “They dig up, backfill, then do it all over again in the same spot.”
“This whole project’s kind of been a mess from the beginning,” said Amy Pennell. “People who come to my home can’t even park anywhere near here.”
Michelle Jacondin spoke from the heart with her growing frustration about the way the entire project is being performed.
“First it was just that side of Lincoln Street with the parking meters. That was about two months ago, then they ripped it all back up two more times. I was even ticketed for parking over there on the weekend, even though no one was working at the time,” she said.
“We’ve seen a lot of these people sitting around doing nothing at all. My son, who pays for a parking permit, had to park down by the creek on the other side of the bridge.”
Another source of frustration was the closure of Grant Street at the intersection with Lincoln Street directly across from city hall by the contractor who failed to post a road closure sign above it, which forced drivers to back uphill dangerously in reverse the wrong way on a one-way street.