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The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has approved an upgrade project designed to make the McKeesport water treatment plant, shown here, more reliable. A small mechanical equipment building, shown at lower left, will be replaced by a new facility with room for expansion. (Submitted photo)
The water authority that serves McKeesport, Port Vue, Versailles and White Oak has approved a $7.8 million project to replace the intake structure at the city’s water treatment plant.
That could prevent a repeat of an incident in August that caused an overnight water outage for some local residents served by the facility, and a more serious problem last year that resulted in a boil-water advisory.
At a meeting this month, the board of directors of the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County authorized the upgrades, which will improve water supply reliability for customers supplied by the plant, said Matthew Junker, authority spokesman.
The McKeesport plant draws water from the Youghiogheny River and treats it for its own customers, as well as for residents of Duquesne, which buys water in bulk from MAWC.
The work approved this month will replace three existing pumps, and the building that houses them, with new pumps and a larger building that allows room for future expansion, Junker said.
The existing building dates to 1990, when the old McKeesport water treatment plant was replaced following MAWC’s purchase of the city system.
The new building will simplify maintenance and repair activities that are cramped in the existing structure, Junker said, and will be oversized to allow for potential future expansion.
The additional pumps will increase the authority’s capability to do maintenance at the plant without having backup water-pumping capacity, he said.
On Aug. 28, an electric motor failed on one of the existing pumps, knocking it out of service. Crews then had difficultly getting a backup pump into operation.
Junker said the difficulty was caused because the current pumps need to be “primed” — they need to be filled with water before they can start pumping water on their own.
A more serious shutdown occurred in October 2019, when McKeesport-area customers were under a boil-water advisory for several days after a mechanical issue knocked one of the pumps out of service and pressure began falling throughout the water system.
The new pumps will be below the water level of the river, Junker said, so they won’t need to be primed after a shutdown occurs, which should reduce issues related to restarting them.
In addition, he said, the new building will have room for up to five pumps at a time, rather than the current three.
The board also reviewed recent work at the McKeesport plant that cleaned, calibrated and replaced some parts of the plant’s chemical feed system, Junker said.
Originally published October 24, 2020.