After successfully applying for and receiving a $1,219,854 grant from the federal government that will provide stimulus funds for a project to replace aging water meters in the borough, Jim Thorpe's Borough Council probably expected a warmer reception to the project than it has been receiving thus far.
Despite the fact that the grant is paying for updated meters that will save water and money for residents as well as back flow preventers that will protect the municipal water supply from accidental contamination, residents and business owners alike are concerned about the project.
The project will impact nearly 1,700 households in Jim Thorpe and 47 commercial water meters. It will result in the replacement of existing water meters with radio read units, the purchase of data collection and host software and interface units. According to The Recovery Act in Pennsylvania website, the project "will serve the current customers of the borough's system." But many residents who appeared at a general purpose meeting borough council held on March 31, were not convinced.
Close to 100 residents and business owners turned out for the meeting, which focused primarily on the water meter project. Borough engineer, Kim Mazur of Entech Engineering, explained the project and answered questions from the audience. The primary question for many was how can they be expected to invest more money in their plumbing when times are this tough.
While the grant does pay for the new meter and the back flow preventer, the resident is still required to install a check valve and have a thermal expansion tank installed in their home before the company hired to put in the new meters, In Line Services Inc., will complete the work. Residents expressed concerns that the tanks weren't really necessary, would be too expensive and that they were not given sufficient notice.
Mazur explained that once the back flow preventer is installed, the water lines inside the house become a closed system. When the water taps are closed, the water will fill every line in the system. But when water is heated, it expands, by as much as 4 percent, which can cause pipes to break or leak. The most likely result is that the system will break at its weakest point, the hot water intake on the resident's washing machine, filling the house with water and potentially spraying the resident with scalding water.
In Line Services doesn't want to be held responsible for an injury or damage to a residents home and so will not put in the new equipment unless the thermal expansion tank has been installed.
Mazur told residents that they can install the thermal expansion tank by themselves and they don't need a permit to do so. Plumbers can do the work, but must be registered with the borough and get a permit. The fee for the plumbers is about $50. The tank and the check valve are additional expenses. In all, borough residential water customers will end up spending between $130 and $180 for the work.
It will be more expensive for business owners, who will have to install additional equipment to protect against back flow that could contaminate the municipal water supply. Costs for most businesses are expected to be in the range of $300-$500. A list of plumbers approved by the borough to do plumbing work related to the water meter project is available on the borough's website at www.jtborough.org.
In Line Services has already begun work on the east end of town and will be moving across the borough from east to west. The company will send out notifications in advance, asking residents to select a time to have the work done.