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Johnstown council discussing second option for those opposed to pressure testing

By: Maria Miller

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Just two weeks after Johnstown City Council proposed a repeal of the controversial pressure test mandate for its portion of the sewer project, they've come up with a second possible option for homeowners. But experts are already arguing it might not work.

"There's been a lot of protesting against the pressure testing so we're also looking at the possiblity of camera testing," said Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic after a work session at City Hall on Tuesday.

Camera testing is a possible second option that City Council members are debating for residents in the city who are strongly opposed to pressure testing their sewage lines.

"The claim with pressure testing was once you pressure test, if the lines are deficient, they're going to collapse and you'll have to replace the entire line," Janakovic said. "With the camera itself, it may give an option of replacing only a portion of the lines, or if there's a crack or leak, they might be able to slip line."

In some cases the camera testing option would prevent people with finished basements from ripping up entire sections of flooring. But it's also an option local contractors will tell you up front won't work for every home.

"Pressure testing is an objective test. It's either pass or fail," said Steve Sewalk, an engineer for the EADS Group and consultant for the city. "The camera is a subjective test. You can't always see all the defects that leak through that process."

"(Residents would choose the option) knowing the camera testing isn't always 100 percent foolproof and it may be something they have to go back in and correct at a later time," Janakovic said.

Pressure testing has been the only option for at least 500 city residents who have already completed the work, not to mention the thousands of people in surrounding municipalities who will no doubt have frustrations if city residents aren't required to do the same. But it's a method the EADS Group said is showing results to the overall infrastructure.

"I think a lot will see the benefits of it and still follow through with it as a very large percentage in Ferndale," Sewalk said. "Ferndale did the same thing.... Hopefully that will bring us to the point we need."

The option has not been finalized. Council will hold at least one more work session to discuss its options before they vote at their next meeting July 23.

In the meantime 6 News is told the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority has already started looking into new, higher rates for municipalities who don't go through with pressure testing and result with stronger flows to the sewage treatment plant.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times