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The water authority serving McKeesport says it has no record of any complaints about fire hydrants in the Grandview section of the city.
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko and angry city residents disagree.
And they want the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County to run a new water line to a neighborhood that has been plagued by fires, including a blaze on June 16 that leveled one family's home, heavily damaged a neighbor's home, and caused severe damage to at least four nearby houses.
Residents and city firefighters say lack of sufficient water at nearby hydrants hampered efforts to battle that fire, and other blazes.
"I have not been able to sleep," Norma Kwiecinski, who lives near the site of the June fire, told city council on Tuesday. "I'm really scared in our neighborhood and I want to know what's going to be done about this."
Kwiecinski tearfully recounted six fires in a two-block area of Cleveland Street since 2013. "After the first fire, the water (authority) came out and flushed the hydrant, but nothing else was done," Kwiecinski said.
"We have a hydrant directly across the street from the house, and it's sad, because with this most recent fire, the firemen were screaming, 'We don't have enough water pressure,'" she said. "I love my city, but I feel like I have to move."
A spokesman for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County told Tube City Almanac last month that the authority has invested $3 million in McKeesport's water system in the past 12 months to improve "both water supply and quality" and that it plans another $2.1 million of investments in the next 12 months.
But in response to a right-to-know act request filed by Tube City Almanac, the water authority said it has no records or copies of any emails, phone calls, letters or other complaints from city officials, residents or firefighters about fire hydrants.
"I can assure you we've made several complaints," Cherepko said Tuesday night.
Thomas Bowman, who lives on Cleveland Street, said Tuesday he has records of his own phone calls to the water authority, going back to March 2013, pressing them for action.
The authority's response has seemed to be indifferent, he said.
"At this point, it seems like if (a fire) happens again, your house is a lost cause," Bowman said. "We need this to be fixed now."
The water authority isn't listening to residents or customers, he said, but they may listen to city officials.
If he were the mayor, Bowman said, "I would be on the phone every morning and every afternoon asking, 'When is this problem going to be repaired?'"
Cherepko said the city is pressuring the water authority and will "not settle for anything less" than a new 8-inch water main being run down the center of the street.
A new water line has been run on Allison Street, which intersects Cleveland, he said. In the meantime, Cherepko said, water tankers are automatically being dispatched to any fire calls in the neighborhood.
In addition, the mayor said, police will be enforcing parking regulations at intersections. During the response to the June 16 fire, some fire trucks had difficulty reaching the scene because of cars parked too close to corners.
Originally published July 12, 2018.