Study: Pittsfield’s sewer system crumbling

Posted Nov. 27, 2008, at 7:57 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — A recent study of the town’s aging sewer system has revealed a complex of 100-year-old pipes, many of which are broken, cracked and leaking.

The study was conducted by Olver Associates Inc. of Winterport, and William Olver presented the findings to a recent meeting of the Town Council. The council will now mull over a second study, which would include sewer flushing and inspection, smoke and dye testing and a report that would detail long-range corrections.

“These problems have been developing for 100 years,” Olver told the council.

He explained that the town owns 30 miles of sewer pipe, and the pipes range from 6 inches in diameter to 30 inches. Many are made of clay and are in poor condition.

Olver said the goal of any plan would be to focus limited capital dollars on areas of the system that require the most attention.

In an attempt to determine where those areas are, Olver’s crew conducted middle-of-the-night inspections.

“The Pittsfield system typically shuts down about 10:30 or 11:30 p.m.,” when residents retire for the night, Olver said. “We were out opening manholes at 2 a.m.”

What the crewmembers found was not good. They identified 17 streets where broken, cracked or crumbling sewers are allowing sewage to seep into the ground. Some of the highest seepage areas include Crosby Street, Elm Street, Peltoma Avenue, Airport Road, Nichols Street, Detroit Avenue, North Main Street, Dobson Street and Hunnewell Avenue.

Olver said these are “the leakingest areas of town.”

In addition, Olver said, Pittsfield gets about 40 inches of rain a year. By measuring the storm flow for different rain events this past year, another 21 locations were indicated as problems for high stormwater flow into the sewer system.

Following a 7-inch rainstorm in May, Olver said, “Your lines were full everywhere, all the way back to the Interstate.”

Olver did note that a lot of the leaking sewer lines are new PVC plastic pipes. “This suggests that [the] entire line may not be an issue, just specific locations that might be visible with television inspection.”

The second study is expected to take several months next summer. The $175,000 cost could be partially paid for through a $45,000 planning grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The town would then be responsible for the remaining $130,000 cost.

“The end product,” Olver said, “would be a long-range plan for correcting these issues.”

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