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Published: Thursday, 2/17/2005

Weather, clogs increase sewer project by $1.59M

Mayor Jack Ford's administration is blaming the weather and an unexpectedly clogged sewer main for the mounting cost of repairing a collapsed sewer line 70 feet below Front Street in East Toledo.

This week, the administration forwarded to City Council an ordinance to approve another $1.59 million, on top of the $1.97 million already allocated, to complete the repair.

The collapsed 72-inch sewer pipe caused a sinkhole in Front about 600 feet north of Wheeling Street, forcing the closure of Front on Aug. 4. Officials now predict the road will reopen Feb. 28.

Hussein Abounaaj, the city's commissioner of engineering services, said heavy precipitation and the large amount of material that had to be cleaned out of the sewer contributed to the high cost.

The project involved installing a 32-foot-wide temporary steel-lined shaft to the broken sewer 70 feet below the road, and installing a smooth liner in the sewer pipe to reduce the buildup of material and strengthen the sewer line.

The sewer - tall enough for an adult to stand in - collects sewage from East Toledo before it goes to a pump station and then under the river to the city's wastewater treatment plant.

District 3 Councilman Bob McCloskey said the long time needed to repair the damage, the mounting cost, and the fact that it was a no-bid contract have been a concern to him.

"It was declared an emergency and it was given to Crestline [Paving & Excavating Inc.], which is a very good contractor. And once they discovered it was a sewer line and it was a major project, I think it should have been sent out for bid, and it wasn't," Mr. McCloskey said.

He said he has been fielding complaints from businesses in the area that depend on Front to get to the Port of Toledo and Oregon's industrial area, and which have been detoured via Consaul Street and Otter Creek Road.

Robert Stevenson, the city's director of public utilities, said the city hired Crestline on a no-bid basis because of the importance of Front and because of Crestline's experience with deep sewer excavation. He said other contractors hired for the project were specialists who would have been hired anyway.

"It was an emergency repair because the road was in jeopardy of failing entirely," he said.

The project is being paid for with sanitary sewer funds.

Mr. Abounaaj cited several factors in the cost overruns:

●Initial estimates were that 200 cubic yards of material would have to be removed from the 2,800-foot-long sewer section. It turned out to be more than 600 cubic yards. The cost of plugging the sewer and then cleaning it was $870,000, rather than the $100,000, as initially estimated.

●The bypass pumping system was inadequate to handle the flow, especially with high precipitation that occurred in November, December, and January. A second bypass was installed in December. The cost of bypass pumping more than doubled, from $200,000 to $530,000.

Mr. Abounaaj said the project also suffered failures of the large inflatable plugs that had to be installed both downstream and upstream of the break so the cleaning, repairs, and liner installation could take place.

"Fortunately, no workers were in the pipe at the time," he said.



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