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Town leaders hear water loop options

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- A loop in Front Royal's water system could keep service flowing in an emergency, a consultant told officials Monday.

Pennoni Associates Inc. representatives gave Town Council an update on its study of a loop system seen as a way to prevent loss of service to Front Royal's northernmost users. The engineering consultant found two potential routes for the water -- Mary's Shady Lane and Benny's Beach Road. Pennoni presented a third option Monday -- Morgan Ford Road -- after council last year suggested they look at the option as an alternative.

The entire northern corridor relies on a booster pump station in the Guard Hill Road area, Pennoni project manager Michael Newlin said. Users in that corridor demand almost 500,000 gallons of water per day. A water tank at the northern end of the corridor holds 1 million gallons. The amount used per day does not include what the future Dominion power plant will need once it comes online. The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail also would use water from the town in that corridor.

"You can each do the math and understand that any problems in that portion of the system need to be resolved quickly," Newlin said.

A loop installed along Mary's Shady Lane could cost approximately $8.23 million and $8.74 million on Benny's Beach Road. The option presented Monday along Morgans Ford Road falls in between at approximately $8.5 million.

Town Manager Steve Burke said Tuesday that Front Royal would pay for a loop project out of its water fund should council approve such a project. The town has not appropriated any funding for the project.

The Mary's Shady Lane option takes piping along a western route while Benny's Beach Road makes a central path. Morgan's Ford Road follows along the eastern side of town. The third option also scored higher in a ranking system Pennoni used to determine the impact of the three routes. Pennoni looked at the possible cost to obtain rights-of-way for the water line and potential users along the route. The number of properties any route would cross remains uncertain, Newlin said.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt suggested that the town could discuss with the Virginia Department of Transportation the possibility of working with the agency when the state begins building a new bridge on Morgan's Ford Road over the Shenandoah River. Bridge construction could begin in 2016, Tewalt said. The water line could hang under the bridge, Tewalt said.

Tewalt warned that the town lost money in years past when users tapped into extended water lines at no charge. The town likely could cut the number of taps by working with VDOT and taking the Morgan's Ford Road route, Tewalt said.

Installing the waterline under the river poses a few risks, Newlin explained. Leaks could develop that no one would see. The section would be at the lowest point of the loop but would hold water at the highest pressure, Newlin said.

The loop's southern-most end should connect to the system at an existing, 3-million-gallon storage tank near Va. 55, Newlin said. The tank stands high within the system but remains underused and the town should disperse some of that water around to other areas, Newlin suggested.

The town also needs to make sure water can flow at such a speed that it doesn't sit in the pipes for extended periods, Newlin said. Pennoni's studies found that the length of the loop caused water to sit for days without use. Engineers looked at a scenario in which the pump station went off line and the town did not have the use of the storage tank near Fairground Road. Without another way to increase the water's velocity, the town wouldn't meet its standard of 1,000 gallons per minute of residual pressure to allow for fire suppression. As long as the tank on Fairground Road remains in service, the town wouldn't face a problem, Newlin said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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