Lansford-Coaldale Joint Water Authority's $2.1 million upgrade, which included building a new 715,239-gallon storage tank, replacing the 125,000-gallon storage tank in Coaldale and replacing the 3,100 feet of water main along East Abbott Street in Lansford, is nearly complete.

The remaining work, refurbishing and painting the borough's 1.5 million-gallon storage tank on Hauto Mountain, will be done in spring, said Water Authority chairman Toby Krajcirik. The water tanks needed to be replaced or refurbished because they are 30 years old and rusting, and the water lines were too small to deliver sufficient pressure for fire fighting.

The project should wrap up by midsummer, he said.

In addition to replacing and refurbishing the water tanks, the upgrade to a 12-inch line also increased water flow for fire protection by 1,200 gallons per minute in the southeast corner of the borough, along Abbott Street from Walnut to Bertsch. That part of the project was finished in October.

The water Authority took out a low-interest PennVEST loan to fund the project. It also applied for an H2O PA grant, through the state Department of Economic Development. The grants were expected to be announced last month. However, the Commonwealth Financing Authority, which administers the state's economic stimulus funding, had delayed the decisions until this month or January.

The Water Authority also raised the water rate from $52.30 to $68 a quarter for the first 7,000 gallons, the first increase since 1995, to help pay for the project.

Krajcirik said that even with the increase, the Authority's 3,400 customers in Lansford, Coaldale, Lake Hauto and Hauto Village are still getting a good deal. He said that, based on 7,000 gallons of water per quarter, Lehighton water customers pay $91.79 and Tamaqua's pay $85.80. Jim Thorpe residents, he said, will pay $137.40 per quarter come January.

The project is part of a "continual upgrading of our systems to better serve the customers of the Lansford-Coaldale Joint Water Authority," Krajcirik.