The Board of Estimates was told today that, without immediate repairs, a sewer trunkline in eastern Baltimore County could collapse and cause “considerable amounts of sewage overflows, a catastrophic failure” in parts of the county and city.
Deputy Public Works Director Matthew Garbark did not identify the location, but, as The Brew reported yesterday, the site is just west of the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant at 8201 Eastern Avenue in Dundalk.
“When we found these defects in the pipe, we immediately cordoned off the area so there is no work, no vehicles, nothing on it to further stress or weaken the pipe,” he said.
“We are constantly monitoring the condition and currently it is working,” Garbark added, explaining that the pipe is still able to carry over 50 million gallons of sewage a day into the treatment plant.
But with the threat that a collapsed pipe would cause sewage to back up for miles, potentially overflowing into area homes and streets, the BOE approved an emergency $11 million contract to repair the pipe.
Carrying Sewage Since 1904
The brick-lined arched tunnel, 11 by 12 feet, was constructed in 1904. It is one of two underground pipes that carry sewage from President Street at Harbor East to the Back River plant for treatment and eventual discharge into the Chesapeake Bay.
The biggest challenge facing the contractor will be diverting the constant flow of “effluent” so that repairs can be made.
“We’re talking about a significant process of getting pumps and lines to empty the pipe and isolate the area that needs to be repaired,” Garbark said. “It is not a normal wastewater pipe, it is a massive structure.”
Documents reviewed by The Brew show that cracks and other damage were detected after DPW undertook an $8.3 million clean-up of accumulated sediment in the pipe, required under Baltimore’s sewer consent decree with federal and state regulators.
Video footage in 2018 identified at least 10 holes in the pipe where two 40-inch force mains from the county entered the chamber, DPW engineer Timothy Wolfe said today.
Because of the need to fix the pipe before it deteriorated further, DPW did not formally bid the project, but instead asked three companies to submit prices.
IPR (Inland Pipe Rehabilitation) of Georgia withdrew from the process, according to Wolfe.
Spiniello Companies asked for $17 million, which left Ulliman Schutte Construction the low bidder at $10.73 million.
“The delta is that Ulliman Schutte had just done a repair further downstream for the same pipe,” Wolfe said. “And they’re using the same specialized repair method – a spiral-wound pipe insulation with concrete injected into the pipe to stabilize it. So we got the emergency authorization, and we’re now poised to perform the work.”
The approved contract will last for 11 months.
Mayor Brandon Scott and the board additionally awarded $300,000 to KCI Technologies to inspect the repairs.