SALISBURY TWP., Pa. - Decades of low water pressure should be washed away before the end of this year for residents of one hillside neighborhood in the northern tip of eastern Salisbury Township.
Bethlehem, which provides water to some homes in that part of the township, plans to install a booster pumping station to end the low-pressure problem in the Weil Street neighborhood.
"For many years, residents have complained about the water pressure," said Salisbury manager Randy Soriano. "I believe we have reached the point where the issue will be resolved."
Bethlehem officials described the pumping station project to Salisbury commissioners Thursday night.
"We realized there was poor service up in this area – there's low water pressure --- so we've designed a pump station to put in this neighborhood, to boost the pressure for these customers," said Edward Boscola, the city's water and sewer resources director.
The pumping station project, which will cost about $100,000, will be paid by Bethlehem, said the city officials.
Boscola said the small, prefabricated pumping station should be installed and operational by the end of this year – if not sooner.
The "significant improvement" initially will benefit about 50 homes and city officials hope that will increase by owners of at least 50 more homes who will decide to tie into the water system.
Soriano said the very first complaint he received when he became township manager in 2008 was about insufficient water pressure in that neighborhood. He added many of those complaints are about not having enough pressure to take decent showers.
"I'm sure the people who live there are going to be thrilled," said Commissioner James Brown.
The area that will benefit from the new station includes homes at higher elevations along parts of Weil Street, all of Ritter Street, plus Summit Street, Virginia Avenue and Wistar streets, said Steven Lowry, the project's consulting engineer. He explained the city has water lines in all those streets.
He said the pumping station will increase water pressure by about 40 psi --- pounds per square inch.
Generally speaking, said Lowry: "The higher the elevation, the lower the pressure."
He said homes at the highest points of those streets now may have a water pressure of only 25 psi, which means they'll increase to about 65 psi.
Lowry said the normal range for a water system is 30-150 psi. "We're marginal here."
He said water customers should see about the same water pressure all the time.
The new pumping station will be installed in the tip of a private yard where Ritter, Weil and Elinor streets meet.
It will be an underground station, with little visible at the surface, other than an air vent and an entrance hatch that will be flush with the ground. After it is installed, that spot will be landscaped with shrubs or bushes.
The city got an easement to install the pumping station in that corner of the property in the 1700 block of Ritter Street. "It's probably going to be invisible from the person's house," said Lowry.
The electrically-powered station will have two 1.5-horsepower pumps, which Lowry said are about the same size as the motor on a swimming pool pump.
"It shouldn't be noisy, maybe a low hum when the pumps are running," said the engineer, adding usually only one pump will run at a time.
Lowry said if one pump would fail, the other would switch on. If both pumps should fail, water customers in that neighborhood would not be left without water, but the pressure would drop back to what it is now.
Lowry said that area of Salisbury already is served by a pumping station, located behind St. Luke's Hospital in neighboring Fountain Hill, and a two-million-gallon concrete reservoir, located on South Mountain below the Star of Bethlehem.
Stephen Repasch, executive director of Bethlehem Water Authority, told commissioners that back in the 1980s either residents or the township wanted Bethlehem to extend its public water lines into the Weil Street neighborhood, apparently to replace wells serving homes.
"The city knew at that time that the elevation challenges were going to present a problem," said Repasch, who added city officials had warned Salisbury it was not going to be a good area for public water lines because of the terrain.
"Salisbury at that time said ‘we still want public water service'," said Repasch, so Bethlehem installed the lines in that area.
He said the new pumping station will give Bethlehem the ability to serve additional properties in that neighborhood.
Many streets in that area don't have water mains running beneath them, said Lowry, who added pipelines could be extended.
After the Bethlehem officials left the meeting room, township firefighters attending the meeting complained water pressure is inadequate in fire hydrants in that neighborhood -- a problem the new pumping station apparently is not designed to solve.
People may be able to take great showers, maintained one, "but we're still going to have no firefighting capabilities in that area."
Allentown, PA 18102