Water auth

A crew works on a Bradford City Water Authority project in 2020. More work lies ahead for the authority, with the help of an $8 million grant.

It was like Christmas in July on Friday for the Bradford City Water Authority, when they learned an upcoming $8.52 million infrastructure project will be fully funded by a grant.

Executive Director Steve Disney said the project will involve replacing 573 service line connections that contain lead, and about 3 miles of some of the oldest and most problematic water lines in the system.

“We’re so excited,” Disney said. The funding is through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, also known as PENNVEST. Funding through that authority may come as a low-interest loan or grant, and is a competitive process.

The fact that the entire project was funded through a “Principal Forgiveness Loan” — essentially a loan that isn’t required to be paid back — is outstanding, Disney explained.

“That takes a huge financial impact and burden off our customers,” he said. “It’s a great day for Bradford.”

Explaining the project and the onus for it, Disney said that ever since the lead in the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, there’s been a push to replace lead water lines. While the local authority has had no issues with the lead connectors currently in use in the system, they wanted to take a proactive approach to get them replaced before issues arise.

“In late March or early April, we found out there was funding available through PENNVEST,” he said. The deadline for applications was May 5. Although there wasn’t much time, the authority wanted to try to pull something together to take a chance.

Disney explained, “There’s no mandate right now to replace your lead service lines.”

However, the state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing their lead rules, which likely means mandates are coming. Seeing a chance to get ahead of it, Disney and the authority put together this project.

Records of water line leaks and breaks were reviewed, and compared to more than 6,000 customer records. They determined there were “573 service lines that still have a component of lead in them. We put it in that project to replace those service lines.”

And they determined where in the city had some of the most problematic lines.

“We targeted some of our water mains in the city that were chronic issues in the past,” Disney said. “We found 16,800 linear feet of water main that has leaded joints and lead connections.”

That roughly three miles of old, cast iron water main will be replaced with PVC, and the 573 service connections will be replaced as well.

“The utility has to replace the customer’s side from the curb box to the meter,” he added, explaining that will be included in the project.

Disney said the lines are spread around the city, on about 10 different streets. The authority plans to put the project out to bid this fall, and has a target completion date of 2022.

This doesn’t completely rectify the lead issue, but it’s a huge first step.

“It is an amazing day for the Bradford Water Authority,” said authority chair Ron Orris. “This money will make a big improvement to our infrastructure.”

In announcing the grant, state Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, and state Sen. Cris Dush, R-Brookville, commended the authority on the project.

“Investing in our community’s infrastructure is so important to supporting quality of life for those who live and work here,” Causer said. “I applaud the water authority for pursuing this vital improvement project.”

Dush had similar comments.

Disney thanked the legislators for supporting the project.

“I’m sure that made a difference,” he said. He lauded the members of the authority as well.

“Our board, they are visionaries,” Disney said. “They are always looking forward. This was one thing we knew was always hanging over us. We’re just elated.”