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Task force works to rank possible water projects in Washington County

Robert Houk • Updated Mar 20, 2020 at 5:06 PM

Washington County’s Water Task Force is reviewing data to determine the water infrastructure needs of the county, and to identify areas that can be best served by a public water system.

County Mayor Joe Grandy said the task force is looking to take a “systematic approach” to supplying water to unserved parts of Washington County. He said the task force is in the process of ranking the county’s ability to reach those areas “based on engineering data” from Tysinger, Hampton & Partners Inc.

That data is contained in a water line capital improvement plan the Johnson City engineering firm has prepared for Washington County and released in May  2019. The report noted Washington County has 214 miles of roadway with no access to public water.

Washington County originally estimated it could cost at least $40 million (based on a united cost of $35 per linear foot of water lines) to extend water service to all 359 unserved roads on its proposed list.

“This study evaluates the feasibility of extending public water lines to unserved roads, and provides a phasing plan to install $5 million to $10 million worth of water line extensions grouped in projects of approximately $1 million to $2 million each,” the TH&P report says.

The Washington County Commission voted in January to appoint nine members to the task force, which is headed by Grandy. The task force is a result of a workshop — held on Jan. 19, 2019 — where commissioners identified supplying drinking water to households and for firefighting services in rural areas as one of their top objectives.

Jill Workman, an engineer with TH&P, told her colleagues on the task force earlier this month there will be some places in the county where the placement of fire hydrants is “just not possible.” She said the data will help county officials identify roads where providing water service is actually feasible.

“A water system is dynamic, and subject to change,” Workman said.

Grandy said the task force would continue to prioritize water projects based on their access to water systems and the number of residents to be served. A list of likely projects will then be recommended to the commission.

That’s when the county will begin applying for federal and state community development block grants to help pay for projects.

Current water providers in the county will be a part of that action plan. The town of Jonesborough now serves 166 square miles in the county, with the Johnson City system covering 110 square miles in Washington County.

 The city of Kingsport and the Chuckey Utility District each serve approximately 26 square miles.

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