Missouri American, Joplin Chamber leases water utility work in Royal Heights | Local News

Better fire protection and perhaps a small increase in water pressure have come to a North Joplin neighborhood thanks to a project just completed by Missouri American Water Co. to replace miles of small aging water pipes by much larger and more efficient pipes.

U.S. officials from Missouri, the Joplin Fire Department and the Joplin Chamber of Commerce gathered Friday in Humphrey Park, at the corner of Utica and Independence streets, to cut the ceremonial ribbon marking the completion of a $6.5 million water main replacement project in the Royal Heights neighborhood of north Joplin.

U.S. Missouri operations manager Matt Barnhart said the project replaced 4.5 miles of 2-inch water pipes, installed when the neighborhood was built in the 1940s and 1950s, with 8-inch pipes. inches, allowing the installation of fire hydrants throughout the region.

“There was water for municipal (residential) use but not enough for fire protection, so in 2019 we began the process of replacing all of the 2-inch water mains throughout this neighborhood, at 4 1/2 miles of them,” Barnhart told the rally. . “If you think about the 4 1/2 mile length, think about doing it block by block by block. Lots of entrances, lots of courtyards, lots of customers affected, lots of service lines replaced, and in doing so we brought fire protection to this area.

Barnhart said people in their homes might notice a little more water pressure from their faucets due to the upgrades, but the improved fire protection is the main benefit residents will see as a result of the upgrade. upgraded to $5.5 million.

Joplin Fire Chief Gerald Ezell said in a statement released ahead of the grand opening that replacing a 2-inch pipe with an 8-inch system would deliver about nine and a half times more water to the area for firefighting operations.

Joplin Fire Marshal Dale Brooks said at the groundbreaking that the upgrades have also allowed more fire hydrants to be installed in the neighborhood, meaning each structure is closer to a fire hydrant. fire now than it was before 2019.

“The number of fire hydrants was very limited here,” Brooks said. “The size of the trunks limits the number of hydrants that can go down a street, so putting these 8-inch trunks in the streets of Royal Heights allows us to space them at closer intervals and allows us to have good water to deal with emergencies.”

New funding

Barnhart said Missouri American was able to complete this project faster and will be able to make similar improvements throughout Joplin more quickly thanks to legislation passed in 2021 by the Missouri General Assembly.

The Water and Sewer Infrastructure Replacement Act allows water and sewer companies to request rate changes more often. Under the previous law, utilities applied to the Civil Service Commission for tariff adjustment over a three-year cycle.

White said the WSIRA allows utilities to apply to the PSC for a surcharge to recover the costs of major investments or repairs to a utility system.

The law allows the PSC to review the surcharge before it appears on an invoice, and then drafts and surcharges are audited again when the company reports to the PSC for one of its rate changes regular three years.

Barnhart said the law helps speed the replacement of aging water pipes and other key water system components.

“Right now there are approximately 562 miles of pipeline within the city limits of Joplin,” Barnhart said. “We will spend approximately $5.5 million per year in different areas of the city to replace 2-inch and 4-inch infrastructure. We will see this kind of work for the next 30 or 40 years.

“Investing and maintaining the system is something that never ends. You’re trying to replace at least 1% of the system per year, and we’re way behind on that. WSIRA will finally allow us to replace 1% of the system per year. »