Columbia Gas of Ohio plans to launch a 5,700-foot pipeline improvement project across Johnstown in March.

Columbia Gas of Ohio plans to launch a 5,700-foot pipeline improvement project across Johnstown in March.

The company will replace the natural gas main and service lines on seven village streets: Anna Way, Payne Avenue, and Elm, Jersey, Main, Oregon and William streets.

Ken Stammen with Columbia Gas said the project would affect about 130 customers.

The approximately $386,000 project will replace the existing steel pipes with plastic pipes.

"We are taking out of service, older bare steel pipe that was installed without any sort of coating or protection against corrosion," Stammen said. "That was just the technology of the time."

Stammen said the pipes are more than 50 years old. The plastic pipes would better protect against corrosion and gas leaks, he said.

"It's an upgrade to the system. We're making the system safer. We're making it more reliable and we're making it more convenient for customers," Stammen said.

Both the main and service lines would be replaced, he said. The company will also relocate any indoor gas meters to the outside of the home or business.

The meters are being moved to eliminate the need for Columbia Gas employees to enter homes and businesses to read meters as well as eliminate the risk of the company turning off services because of access issues.

Stammen said the construction would cause a temporary interruption to residents' natural gas service. The company will contact affected residents with a letter in advance, and a representative will meet with customers prior to shutting off and restoring service.

Columbia Gas will have to dig in some residential yards, he said, since the pipelines are all underground, but said the company will repair any property that's damaged during the process. The pipes are located about 30-35 inches deep.

Stammen said the cost of building and replacing the pipeline system is shared by all Ohio residents and is part of the monthly bill they currently pay.

"These customers aren't going to be handed a bill for the service line replacement work or the meter move-out or anything like that," he said. "This program is paid for in the rates that all Columbia Gas of Ohio customers share."

He said some temporary traffic disruptions are expected, but said there should be no road closures.

The entire project is expected to be complete by August.

"It's going to be an inconvenience for the months it's being done," said Village Manager Jim Lenner, "but for the overall health of the pipeline and to reduce the amount of exposure we have to explosions and leaks is very beneficial to the village."

Stammen said this endeavor is part of a $2-billion, 25-year improvement project to replace 19,000 miles of underground pipeline systems across Ohio.

The project started in 2008 and is expected to be completed in 2033.

Stammen said Columbia Gas will host an open house for residents on Wednesday, Feb. 29, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Johnstown Village Council Chambers, 599 S. Main St.

The meeting will provide more information about the project and answer residents' questions.