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Lack of water is being blamed for the spread of a fire that destroyed this home in the 2600 block of Cleveland Street on Saturday morning. The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County is promising upgrades to the distribution system in the next 12 months. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)
The authority that provides water to McKeesport and neighboring communities plans $2.1 million in upgrades to the distribution system in Grandview and other parts of the city.
"The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has invested more than $3 million on our McKeesport system in the past 12 months to improve both water supply and quality," said Matthew Junker, authority spokesman, in a prepared statement. "Further investments of $2.1 million are planned in the next 12 months."
Lack of water volume in Grandview is being blamed for the spread of a fire that destroyed a house on Cleveland Street on Saturday morning, and damaged five others. The authority did not release details on exactly how the new investments will address that low water volume.
Water tankers were called from Lincoln Borough, Monroeville and as far away as Rostraver Twp., Westmoreland County, as McKeesport firefighters and volunteers from several neighboring communities worked to bring the blaze under control.
Firefighters shuttled water from tankers to the fire scene.
On Monday, McKeesport fire Chief Jeff Tomovscik said it has become protocol for city firefighters to request tanker trucks to calls in Grandview "to compensate for the low volume of water."
They also run larger supply hoses to hydrants that may be further away from the scene, the chief said.
McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko and Tomovscik said that residents and city officials "for several years" have expressed a shared concern over the volume of water flowing through MAWC lines in neighborhoods such as Grandview.
City officials met with MAWC representatives on Monday, Cherepko said, and were told that improvements are coming.
Two families were displaced by the fast-moving blaze, which leveled the two-story wood-frame home of Ron and Elizabeth Sostaric, and caused heavy damage to a neighboring home owned by Maria Billingsley.
Four people were sent to local hospitals for treatment of injuries.
Dan Tobin, spokesman for the Western Pennsylvania region of the American Red Cross, said the agency is currently assisting six adults and two children following the fire.
"We provided resources for clothing and food for both families, and clothing, food and lodging for the other family," he said.
Neighbors also are collecting donations for the families, according to a sign posted at the fire scene, although no details were available.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
MAWC did not respond to an email from Tube City Almanac asking when the authority first became aware of past complaints about a lack of water volume in the Grandview neighborhood; or why fire hydrants lack sufficient water in the neighborhood.
The Westmoreland authority purchased the McKeesport water system from the city's water authority in 1987, following a 1984 outbreak of giardiasis caused by parasites in the water. More than 100 people became ill as a result of the contamination.
The outbreak was blamed on the McKeesport authority's old and failing treatment system, which was completely replaced by the Westmoreland authority.
Below: The same house, as captured on a Google Maps camera in 2013.
Originally published June 19, 2018.