Milford’s water main replacement project – more than a year in the works – is finally about to begin.
Last January, the city council designated the $845,015 of American Rescue Plan Act funds it received from Seward County for the water main replacement project, along with the $184,952 in ARPA dollars allocated to the city.
This month, the city council approved letting the project out for bids.
“We’ve held off on bidding for nine months to a year,” City Clerk Jeanne Hoggins said.
The council was waiting on approval for a state revolving fund loan for upwards of $4 million, and approval finally came in December.
The city has gradually increased its water rates to help pay for the project, which is divided into five phases, Hoggins said.
The ARPA money will pay for Phase 1, which includes replacing the mains along First Street from F to Elm and Maple Street from First to Fourth.
City Maintenance Superintendent Gary TeSelle said the project will involve replacing all the old water mains, valves and hydrants.
“Some are way past 100 years old,” TeSelle said. “They’re way past their life expectancy. It’s starting to haunt us. They just start to crumble. You’re just patching a problem on another problem.”
The old cast iron pipes will be replaced with PVC, which TeSelle said will help reduce the amount of treatment needed to keep the water potable.
“Some of the old pipes are pushed together then packed with lead to seal them, which is why our lead treatment is so important,” he said.
About 30 fire hydrants will be replaced, too, many of which are 70 to 80 years old.
Every home along the project route will receive new service to the curb stop, TeSelle said. Beyond that, homeowners are responsible for their own lines that go into their house.
The city will help homeowners identify what their responsibility is as it maps out the new lines.
The project will help the city comply with new federal regulations on water quality that TeSelle said stemmed from a situation in Flint, Michigan, where the drinking water supply was contaminated with lead and bacteria beginning in 2014 and lasting years.
“We’re really fortunate that we’re doing this when we are with this new regulation coming down,” TeSelle said. “Doing an inventory of the system and knowing where all these lead and copper and iron services are would have been a very difficult thing otherwise.”
He said service lines were not always marked in the old days.
“If we do have problems in a certain area, we’ll be able to isolate it instead of shutting off a big section of town like we have to now,” he said.
TeSelle said newer housing developments were more accurately mapped, and plastic pipes have been in use for the last 30 years, making the old metals a non-issue in those parts of town.
Once the new mains are complete and cleared to meet regulations, homes will be brought on to the new lines one by one, which will cause short disruptions in water service.
TeSelle said crews will be as efficient as possible to avoid long disruptions.
“There are a lot of unknowns we’re going to be digging into. We’re trying to address those mysteries so they don’t cause us excessive downtimes,” he said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to keep that from being an issue.”
The city also is looking at other quality issues like corrosion control and water treatment. At times, iron and manganese in the pipes react with the chlorine used to treat the water, and that can cause discoloration.
However, TeSelle said, “The water is perfectly safe.”
Bids will be accepted at City Hall until Feb. 1 and will be opened Feb. 2, with the council to hear a recommendation from JEO Consulting at its Feb. 7 meeting.
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