May 23, 2018
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Pittsfield’s Somerset Avenue sewer in danger of collapsing, expert says

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

PITTSFIELD, Maine — Much of Pittsfield’s sewer system is in need of replacing, says Will Olver of Olver Associates Inc. One street has sections that are in danger of collapsing.

The clay pipes used for the 30 miles of the sewer system have outlived twice their lifespan of 50-60 years. Some pipes were first put in the ground in the 1890s.

Olver Associates of Winterport studied the lines over the course of several months and outlined its findings for the Town Council on Tuesday evening. Many of the town’s lines are in need of replacement with PVC pipes.

“It’s always a good process to go through to inventory capital assets,” said Town Manager Kathryn Ruth. “We now have an inventory of the system and know of the critical areas. Although we have 30 miles of sewer lines, about 50,000 feet needed to be reviewed in depth.”

Olver used video cameras to go through pipes to find cracks and gaps between them. The clay pipes were laid down in three-foot sections, thus chances of gaps between the pipes are many.

“Back then, it didn’t matter if the pipes were tight because [the sewage] went into the river anyway,” said Olver. “Now we don’t want that infiltration.”

Somerset Avenue was selected as one of the worst sections.

“A lot of the pipes are in danger of collapsing [in that section],” said Olver.

Olver showed pictures from the video he took of the pipes. There were many areas of cracks and gaps with earth and roots showing. A separated joint on Somerset Avenue even showed daylight.

The pipes were also filled with smoke in some areas to spot gaps. Smoke rose through the ground near School Street and near the former San Antonio Shoe building on the bank of the Sebasticook River.

Olver suggested the sewer pipes be replaced in six phases over the next 20 years. He listed them so the cost for each project would be roughly the same amount, $1.5 million, and by priority.

Somerset Avenue, Elm and School streets and Fourth Street Cross Country sewer were highlighted as the first phase.

Another reason Somerset Avenue was put at the top of the list is because the Maine Department of Transportation has the road on its list as needing repaving. Olver and the council agreed that it would be wise to have the sewer pipes replaced before the road is paved.

“Somerset Avenue has significantly deteriorated over the last several years. We don’t have a date when it was last paved,” said Ruth.

The town has about $1.6 million remaining from a Rural Development project. The funds were allocated for sludge removal, but there wasn’t as much sludge to be cleared as first thought. The money will be spent on the sewer project once it’s voted on by the council and it’s approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where the money originated. Olver estimated the first project phase should cost $1,560,000, although the project hasn’t gone out to bid.

Olver laid out a time frame for the Somerset Avenue sewer project, which he said should begin as soon as possible. He said replacing Somerset Avenue sewers could be completed by November while other areas of the first phase could be finished by the spring of 2013.

Ruth said Somerset Avenue would most likely be repaved in early 2014.

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