Giant hole found in remote sewer line
The city of Fairfield is taking a new approach to sewer repairs.
Until recently, the public works department has been dispatched to fix a break in the city’s sewer line. That is not going to happen anymore. On Oct. 14, those responsibilities passed to the wastewater treatment facility.
The change has required the wastewater employees to undergo additional training, something they will continue throughout the winter and spring. Wastewater plant superintendent Shawn Worley said an employee in the sewer department has been trained to be the lead repairman, and other members are receiving training as well.
Residents who have questions about the sewer plant of a non-emergency nature can call 472-5218. Residents who have a sewer-related emergency should call 919-8348 any time of the day.
The city is on a mission to eliminate rainwater infiltration into its sewer system because the additional water is taxing the plant. Rainwater seeps into the sanitary sewer line in many places, such as in home drains and through small cracks in the pipes.
In June, the public works department uncovered a serious case of rainwater infiltration. A creek runs through a wooded area west of the Faith Baptist Church on West Fillmore Avenue. City employees noticed the creek was high after a hard rain. However, what seemed odd about the creek was how it came to an abrupt end. They could see water flowing along and then suddenly vanish.
Further investigation revealed the creek was spilling into the sewer line buried 1.5-feet below the creek bed. On a hard rain, Worley estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million gallons of rainwater were entering the sewer system just at that one location.
Worley said it’s common for pipes to be built below creek beds, so the problem was not caused by a design flaw in the original construction. He said the pipe underneath had simply gotten too old and had separated from the main line, leaving a gaping hole.
The hole was fixed Thursday. It took the city considerable time to fix the problem because the creek is not easily accessible by a road. Worley wants to create a permanent easement along the creek to ensure that future repairs can be made more timely.
The way the city cleans a sewer line is by spraying water at a high velocity through the line. Workers then stick a large vacuum into the line to suck up the debris that has been removed from the pipe.
Worley said the pipe under the creek had never been cleaned before because it was so difficult to get the cleaning truck to the location. He said the manholes, where employees could access the sewer pipe, were in the middle of the timber.
One of the city’s goals is to gain access to all of the outlying sewer lines so they can be cleaned on a regular basis. Worley said gaining such access will allow the city to send its sewer camera into those remote lines to monitor where rainwater is entering.
The city plans to eliminate 80 percent of the rainwater infiltration by repairing a large chunk of the sewer lines on the east side of town. Worley said fixing problems such as the pipe under the creek constitute the other 20 percent.
Design for the new sewer plant will be completed by December, and ground will be broken on its construction in the spring. It will take two years to build the new plant.