By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The project to replace the aging sewer lift station near the Carolina Beach Boardwalk is behind schedule.
Town Manager Tim Owens said last week it's due to unknown obstacles such as three underground fuel tanks that had to be removed. The resulting soil testing, moving power lines and poles, a change order issued by the Town and contractor's error discovered earlier in the project.
That doesn't resolve the fact that in the off-season business slows down in the Boardwalk and downtown area. With the project carrying over into the holiday shopping season, some business owners are asking the Town to help out. In particular, dumpsters along Cape Fear Blvd that present an eyesore for the public.
The sewer system in Carolina Beach is a common gravity system. At certain points in the system, a lift station is used to pump - or force - sewage through pipes to the treatment plant.
The $1.3 million dollar project will replace the old sewer Lift Station #1 which sends over half of the Town’s waste stream to the Town’s waste water treatment plant off Dow Road on the west side of the Island.
The old pump station had not been upgraded in at least the last 30 years. Currently, approximately 60% of the Town’s sewage flows to the wet well located in the station.
The project took several years to plan and fund. The new station will address issues of reliability, capacity and aesthetics. The old brick building was built at a time when other larger buildings surrounded it on most sides keeping it out of sight from tourists.
That's no longer the case as the adjacent lots have become vacant in the last decade.
With redevelopment of the downtown Boardwalk area anticipated in coming years in the Town's Master Development Plan, building a new structure with a more appealing exterior, quieter pumps and a new odor control system were important aspects of the project.
Also outdated electrical equipment will be replaced. The new lift station will include new submersible pumps to replace the old suction lift pumps installed over 20 years ago. There will be a storage area for maintenance equipment and an on site generator located within the building for emergency power.
The old station is rated for approximately 1,500 gallons per minute capacity. The new station will handle around 2,400 gallons per minute.
The project has not gone off without a hitch. There have been problems.
First it was the discovery of old underground fuel tanks from an old gas station that were not documented.
That required removal of the old tanks and testing of the soil as required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Then someone working for the contractor took fill dirt to local residents and placed it in their yards along Cape Fear Blvd. The Town was notified and promptly informed the contractor to remove that dirt and return those properties to their original condition.
The dirt had to be disposed of or treated properly.
Then the contractor installed a portion of the project out of alignment and had to redo a major portion of the work.
On Tuesday November 8, Town Manager Tim Owens explained the delays and added that the, "Wet well was constructed incorrectly on the lot. Upon trying to correct this, they broke several sections and had to recast" the concrete container.
Owens said the, "Site is very tight with limited mobility."
He explained, "Also, the contractor to date, while doing a good job, is moving slower than anticipated with construction."
He said the project is on-budget but not on-schedule and anticipates the new completion date sometime after January 1st, 2012.
As for the dumpsters on Cape Fear Blvd, Owens explained, "The Town has no other options but to leave the dumpsters in the same area that they are currently located. I would be open to other options but I have explored them all."
Back in August, another unforeseen issue popped up and caused a 72,000 estimated sewer discharge.
The Town issued a notice on Friday August 12, saying they had a sewer discharge of untreated wastewater from a ruptured force main at Lift Station #1 located at 103 Raleigh Avenue behind the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
The discharge occurred on August 11, 2011. The untreated wastewater spilled into drainage lines leading to Carolina Beach Lake and Myrtle Grove Sound at the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin.
The discharge resulted in a minor fish kill of juvenile fish and minnows in the canal going to Carolina Beach Lake.
According to Gene Gurganious - Director of the Town's Public Utilities Department - the problem occurred due to an old line installed in the early 1970's and later capped and left in place.
Currently the contractor, R.D. Braswell, is working on a rehabilitation project for Sewer Lift Station #1.
Gurganious said while the contractor was working, the old five foot section of 8" inch line coming out of the old station had a "t-cap" on the end. Everyone thought the line was abandoned, but it turns out the line was still under pressure. When dirt was removed from around the old pipe, the t-cap came off and sewage began to discharge.
Gurganious said luckily the contractor already had pumps in place to bypass the lift station during work on the project. Those pumps were immediately used to pump the wastewater from the hole back into the lift station and into a nearby sewer manhole leading to the treatment plant.
Gurganious said the situation could have been much worse, but the pumps were put into action quickly and sand bags were put around nearby drainage culverts to keep water from draining to the lake and marina. Gurganious said another pump was taken to the Carolina Beach Lake to capture any discharge draining through underground pipes to the lake. Gurganious said some minnows and smaller fish died as a result.
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