Parts of the Southeast are getting new sewer lines that will replace the city’s century-old sewage infrastructure.
Starting within the next month, the Department of Public Works will begin rehabilitation and replacement upgrades to the sanitary sewer system in the Upper Fell’s Point, Butchers Hill, Patterson Park, and Greektown neighborhoods.
“It’s an old system, so what we’re going to do to improve sewage flow and pipe capacity is replacing the pipes themselves,” said Linzy Jackson, the DPW’s community liaison.
There will be two methods to the sewer improvements. The first is cured-in-place lining (CIPP), the least invasive of the two repairs. With CIPP pipes, the original pipe is not removed but rather replaced.
“We go into the pipe and we basically put a pipe inside the pipe, so we don’t have to cut up the first pipe to put a new one in. We just go in, and the new pipe hardens and we keep it moving,” said Jackson. “It’s a good alternative if you think about it. Digging up an entire street is a lot.”
The new pipe is hardened and heated, usually with steam, until it expands enough to fit the dimensions of the old pipe.
The other method is ‘open cut repairs’, the traditional method when the old pipe is removed. Open cut repairs often require the street being dug open in order to access the pipe. In these cases, the pipes are in a worse condition than those getting CIPP lining.
“A lot of folks don’t like this, but in a lot of areas, we have to do it. We try our best to do what we got to do and then get out,” said Jackson.
Months ago, inspectors from the DPW inserted closed-circuit TVs (CCTV) into the sewer system to gauge the quality of the pipes.
“We do an assessment where we look at the pipe and try to see what kind of condition it’s in. Some pipes may just have some cracks and fractures and we can slip a liner in that will take the structural integrity of the older pipe. Sometimes there could be some kind of blockage, it could be roots, it could be a collapse, it could be anything, and it’s not able to be rehabbed with liners and that’s when we’d have to do the open cut point repair,” said Tiffany Harrison, a representative for the contractor that is doing the repairs.
This assessment determines what kind of repair will be done. Jackson said that residents shouldn’t be concerned if they see inspectors out on their streets in the next few weeks. They are just double-checking their initial assessment with the CCTV, he explained.
“We want to make sure the conditions are the same or maybe they’ve gotten worse. Conditions do change, something that was fractured two years ago could be broken and we cannot line through that,” added Harrison.
Jackson warns that during construction there will be potential traffic and parking restrictions, rerouted public transportation, street closures, and temporary water restrictions.
Residents will be warned of these complications 72 hours before construction is to begin.
As inconvenient as it might be, Chris Peake, the resident inspector for the DPW, said that these delays and setbacks will only last a few hours.
“Both of them [the types of pipe repairs] are typically one-day activities. So, we can literally put in 70 feet of pipe or 1000 feet of pipe in one single day if it’s all adjacent to one another. Typically it’s an 8-hour operation and then we’re done. You usually can’t even tell we were there except for the patch on the ground,” Peake said.
Jackson said the community can help the process go more smoothly with a few precautions, like reducing water use and reporting concerns to the City before they break ground.
“The work is primarily located within city right-of-ways such as streets, alleys, and sidewalks, and only occasionally within yards that have dedicated utility easements. Expect to see contractor work vehicles such as box trucks and excavators along with traffic control personnel,” states a release from the DPW.
Baltimore’s infrastructure is between 80-100 years old; as a result, the sewage system is prone to back-ups and overflows. The city entered a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment, where they are to improve the system through these repairs, reducing sewage leaks and overflows into private property and the city’s waterways. Much of the pollution and bacteria growth is a result of sewage being released into the water during heavy rainfall.
The DPW will be starting in the west, in the Butchers Hill area, before moving north towards Eastern Ave. and I-95. This is a city-wide project and the DPW is aiming for a 2018 completion date.
This pipe repair project has been in the works for over five years. Other repairs within this project’s scope include manhole rehabilitation, new manhole installations, excavated point repairs, and excavated mainline replacements. Over 2600 acres of pipes in Dundalk area have recently been renovated.
Construction will occur on weekdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. If residents have any questions or concerns, they should contact 410-396-4700.
By Gianna DeCarlo