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Needed water upgrades will be disruptive

Staff writer

Allison Shults hopes Marion’s widespread water system updates starting next week will put an end to the skunky water that often pours out of her tap.

“The brown water, the smelly water, it’s time for something to change,” she said.

Updates will help improve water quality, but it will take 10 months, with unpredictable loss of water for residents on Marion’s hill side during that time, EBH Engineering branch vice president and engineer Darin Neufeld said.

“There could be businesses and people who live somewhere in the valley who never see an outage this entire project,” he said. “Can I tell you what those addresses are? No, because until we start off valves and doing isolations, we don’t know which ones are going to hold or how many blocks we’ll have to shut down.”

The best scenario is for no residents to be without water for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time but that is unlikely, Neufeld said.

“Quite honestly, that’s the goal,” he said. “Now, are we going to be able to achieve that goal? No, because there are so many unknowns out there that it’s almost impossible.”

No disruptions will last longer than a couple hours and should not be overnight unless serious problems arise, he said.

How long they last concerns Matt and Mary Kate Classen, who live on S. Freeborn St.

Providing as much notice as possible before shutting off water would help residents prepare, Matt Classen said.

“I’d think maybe more than a week if they could,” he said.

The project will cost approximately $2.6 million, Neufeld said. Roughly $2 million will be paid by the city and $600,000 coming from a Community Development Block Grant that Marion received in 2020.

Water lines that will be replaced include the city’s 1st St. addition south of Marion Auto Supply, a portion of N. Elm St., and a block of Sherman St.

There also are numerous valves that likely will need replacing, Neufeld said.

EBH will notify residents of planned construction a week in advance, Neufeld said.

Shults thinks the amount of time the city will need to dedicate to repairs is understandable, but also notes the necessity of effectively notifying residents about losing water.

“People have to understand you can only work as fast as the construction crew can go and weather conditions permit,” she said. “You have to be patient if you want the improvements.”

Some Marion water lines are from the 1940s and even earlier, so the system is in need of several upgrades.

“I know a lot of people complain about rust in their water, so new water lines are good,” Mary Kate Classen said.

Neufeld estimates 42 blocks in Marion need water lines or valves, which is 1/3 of the city’s water system.

Marion had been doing minor projects every decade or so, but that meant the workload built up over time, he said.

“It’s all in the philosophy of the community,” he said “There are some communities out there that said, ‘we’ll replace it in smaller chunks over time.’ ”

Contractors can start as early as Monday but need to be done by Dec. 1, Neufeld said. A best-case scenario would be to have it done around Nov. 15.

“They’re not going to be able to slack off and get it done,” “They’re going to need to keep moving at a steady pace. Roughly, right now that’s doing one week per block.”

Water flow should improve slightly because there won’t be any rust or calcium buildup in the new pipes, Neufeld said.

“We will increase the flows slightly, probably, but not so much that you’d really know it,” he said.

Water lines on Neufeld’s street don’t need replacing, but he knows he will be affected because lines will be upgraded one block away.

Businesses in the valley and downtown should experience minimal shutdowns because their lines have been updated more recently.

“We know which blocks are going to be replaced,” Neufeld said. “On those blocks, we know that all the valves and meters are going to need to be replaced.”

What replacements won’t affect is water pressure, he said. Pressure is determined by how high the city’s water towers are.

There also will be no changes to residents’ water systems past their water meters. Anything between residents’ meters and their houses is private property, Neufeld said.

Last modified Jan. 13, 2021

 

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