Kent County to spend $6 million on U.S. 13 sewer rehab work

DOVER — Over the past four years, the aging 1970s era concrete sewer pipe running under the U.S. 13 median from Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus in Dover south to Garden Lane by the Capital Commons shopping center has become an increasingly urgent concern for Kent County’s public works department.

At last Tuesday’s Kent County Levy Court meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to pursue $6 million in funding for a rehabilitation project for the ailing line.

Kent County public works director Diana Golt said DNREC has already made a funding offer of a $2.6 million 20-year term loan at 2.6 percent interest, and an application for the remainder is awaiting reply from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

With the hope to collect a bid from a contractor next spring and begin the project shortly thereafter, Ms. Golt believes it could take up to a year to complete.

“We’re assuming eight to nine months with worst case scenario of a year,” she said. “ We may have to anticipate changes like weather events. We’ll do our best to come up with contingency plans and we have to work with DelDOT to make sure we meet their requirements.”

Problem area

The notoriously hard-to-reach stretch of sewer line developed a crack several years ago to the extent that a portion of the county’s sewage had to be diverted through the city of Dover’s sewer infrastructure to avoid continuous spilling.

“It’s been diverted already since at least the fall of 2014,” Ms. Golt said last December. “We found that there was some damage to the top of the pipe and at the time there was a release of wastewater at U.S. 13. A temporary repair was put in place, but the long-term fix will be slip-lining the entire thing to restore its integrity.”

The project laid out to address the issue calls for slip-lining the entire roughly 2-mile length of force main. With this method, a smaller pipe is slipped inside the damaged pipe to block the break.

The repair is considered a “long-term” fix. During the process, public works will need to interrupt the sewage flow through the line at certain points to continue work.

The project got a recent shove into urgency when Dover’s pump station 7 — which the county had been diverting a large quantity of its wastewater through — failed earlier in February. The city-owned pump station is located off the access road between Home Depot and the ACME store near the intersection of Leipsic Road and U.S. 13.

Upon hearing about the recent pump station issues, the county re-diverted their flow back down the U.S. 13 forcemain so the city could address their issue.

The amount of wastewater the county had been diverting through the station was substantial, Dover spokeswoman Kay Sass said earlier this year.

“It’s a massive amount of sewage that flows through that pump station,” she said. “The city sends through 25 million gallons of our own per month.

“With the county’s additional wastewater there was 60 million gallons per month passing through — more than doubling our flow. Their wastewater is coming all the way up from Smyrna.”

The county, desiring to permanently return its wastewater flow back to the U.S. 13 forcemain, will not be able to do so until the rehabilitation project is complete, and according to Ms. Golt, Dover public works has repair work of its own to complete on its pump station.

“Dover’s pump station projects are predicated on us finishing our U.S. 13 project,” she said. “Without doing this project, the city of Dover will be unable to move forward with repairs to their pump station. This is a key project.”

Traffic

Since the project will take place in Dover’s main local traffic corridor, commissioners expressed concern about how this will be addressed at Tuesday’s meeting. According to Ms. Golt, public works is still awaiting DelDOT’s official plans.

“We are almost finished with the preliminary design. The last piece is traffic plans with DelDOT,” she said. “They’ll detail lane closures and detours. This project is complex so we have to make sure that the construction doesn’t interfere with multiple events like NASCAR, graduation and things like that.”

Luckily, Ms. Golt has noted that much of the work can be done from inside the medians.

“It will be complicated because of maintenance of traffic, so a lot of the work will likely be done at night to be less invasive,” she said. “With the way slip-lining works, we can dig pits every so many feet and slip and fuse the pieces of pipe together in either direction, so a lot of work can be done from inside the median. There will be different spots, though, that will probably have lane closures because of the proximity of equipment. We need to protect motorists and the workers on the site.”
Ms. Golt anticipates holding public meetings in early October to fully detail the extent to which traffic will be interrupted by the project.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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