PennVest funding awarded to aid local water authority

July 23, 2014

Dunkard Valley Joint Municipal Authority had more than its share of problems with its system in the last few years.

Winter in 2013 was particularly bad. In January 2013, the authority faced numerous outages because of breaks in its distribution lines. On several days that month, the small authority had two lines to repair, at least one day, it had three.

The authority, which has only about 500 customers in Greensboro, Glassworks, Penn Pitt, Cabbage Flats and Mapletown, is plagued by distribution lines that date back 60 to 70 years and has limited resources to address its problems.

One of the proposed solutions was for Dunkard Valley to consolidate with neighboring East Dunkard Water Authority, which serves about 1,650 customers in Dunkard and Greene townships and portions of Monongahela, Cumberland, Perry and Whiteley townships.

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PennVEST, awarded $9 milion in funding for improvements that will be necessary for Dunkard Valley to consolidate with East Dunkard. The funding came in the form of a $5 million grant and a $4 million low-interest loan.

Though problems with line breaks for Dunkard Valley were fewer last winter, the authority has to make some improvements to its system, said Vic Shine, chairman of the authority board. So, he said, it was good to hear funding is being provided.

“The money is there,” he said. “If we can make it work.”

Many issues will have to be addressed before the authority can move forward with a plan, Shine said. He noted the authorities only learned of the funding award Tuesday.

“Everything is still up in the air; nothing is set,” Shine said. One of the issues the authorities will have to look at, he said, is whether rates that will have to be charged to pay off the PennVest loan will be affordable to customers.

The original plan had called for East Dunkard to take over Dunkard Valley and for Dunkard Valley to cease to exist, he said. However, the two boards will have to sit down together and discuss this as well as other matters.

Sam Cossick, chairman of East Dunkard authority, said Wednesday he will have to know more details about the funding and discuss the matter with his board and the Dunkard Valley board before he could comment.

Dunkard Valley’s system was originally constructed by Duquesne Light Co., which operated the nearby Warwick Mine, and was later turned over to the authority. Most of the system’s distribution lines were installed in the late 1940s.

The PennVest money will be used to build three water tanks and install 72,500 feet of new water line, 25 new hydrants and 466 new meters for Dunkard Valley’s customers.

The East Dunkard authority in recent years completed an $8.2 million project that included replacing water tanks and upgrading its treatment plant.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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