Meadville Tribune

December 17, 2013

Pressure testing required before height set on MAWA water tanks

By Mary Spicer
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — The possibility of saving $3.4 million in the cost of replacing the aging Highland Reservoir is getting a close look from Meadville Area Water Authority members, who have instructed their consulting engineer to proceed with determining the potential impact on the system of a change that would reduce the project’s initial $8.6 million estimate by approximately 40 percent.

The authority is in the process of replacing the aging 4.5-million gallon reservoir with two 2.5-million tanks to be constructed between the reservoir and Highland Avenue near the southeast corner of the Limber Road intersection. Until the authority’s Monday-night meeting, however, plans called for the tanks to extend approximately seven feet above ground level.

According to Thomas Thompson of Gannett Fleming Inc., every effort was made during the initial design phase to mimic the system as it has always run. Because the system is designed to take advantage of water’s natural tendency to flow down, changing either the elevation or the location of the reservoir, which supplies all MAWA’s Meadville customers either directly or via its Limber Road or Hillcrest tanks, would have a significant impact on water pressure throughout the entire system.

As Gannett Fleming moved further along the design path, however, the tank manufacturer suggested that significant savings could be realized by increasing the above-ground height of the tanks by an additional 15 feet, Thompson said.

Because the ground where the tanks will ultimately stand is solid beginning about four feet below the surface, the change would have no impact on their stability, Thompson explained. However, before any additional steps can be taken, the hydraulic model must be updated to determine what impacts the change would have. Because the water level in the tanks would be above the current level in the reservoir, “we need to evaluate the impact of a 10- to 15-pound pressure increase on the system,” Thompson said.

One option, he said, may be to increase the circumference of the tanks. However, no decisions can be made until it has been determined that the new configuration is feasible.

MAWA chairman Tim Groves noted that if the tanks extend 22 feet above ground instead of seven feet, the authority might have to focus more on their outside appearance than was originally planned.

Thompson said the evaluation of the hydraulic model update may be complete before the authority’s January meeting. In that case, drawings indicating the appearance of the finished tanks may be ready for public inspection by February.

The authority also approved a change in its monthly meeting calendar.

Beginning in January, MAWA will meet on the third Wednesday of the month at 2 p.m. at its offices at 18160 Rogers Ferry Road.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at