As crews attempt to install piping beneath the Hudson Bayou, the Lift Station 87 team is working to address the concerns of residents.
At the beginning of October, residents of the Avondale neighborhood had to deal with an intrusion: round-the-clock construction associated with the Lift Station 87 project.
“They had the lights going, the machines going, the workers there,” said Dean Anderson, a board member for the Avondale Neighborhood Association. “The residents right there abutting the project had a lot of issues — trouble getting out of their driveways in the morning, being up all night.”
That late-night work was actually part of the contractor’s plan. Crews are working to install pipes beneath the Hudson Bayou, which will eventually enable the city to reroute wastewater from the aging Lift Station 7 facility to a new facility at 1900 Mound St.
To get those pipes in the ground, the construction team is using a process called horizontal directional drilling. Robert Garland, the project manager with engineering firm McKim & Creed, has said the drilling process is designed to minimize the impact on the surrounding area, because crews don’t have to tear up the streets to install pipes.
However, there is a trade-off. The process requires continuous work as the holes are drilled. Garland said it’s typical to have two or three crews working in shifts to ensure there are no setbacks.
“Once you get the hole open and you’re pulling the pipe, you don’t want to stop,” Garland said. “The hole can collapse or compress a little bit.”
“It’s not a nice job; it’s a dirty job. But it’s something that has to happen.” — Dean Anderson
In the case of the Avondale construction, the process was prolonged because crews feared the hole was compressing, and pulled the pipe out to prevent any issues. Garland acknowledged complaints from residents located near the “exit pit,” where fluid is pumped into the hole and the pipe gets pulled through.
That area also includes vacuum trucks and temporary lighting so crews can work overnight.
“It’s pretty much the center of construction activities,” Garland said. “It’s a noise and light impact, but you want to minimize downtime when you’re pulling the pipe back.”
Despite the intrusion of the construction, Anderson said the Lift Station 87 team was doing a good job of being responsive to the concerns of residents. He credited city project manager Tony Centurione for being on-site and in close communication with the neighborhood regarding the impacts of the project.
Garland has said the project, which is scheduled to continue through 2020, will not be without its impacts. Still, he’s made communication a top priority during the Lift Station 87 construction process. As work continues, he hopes residents share Anderson’s perspective on the project.
“It’s not a nice job; it’s a dirty job — but it’s something that has to happen to improve the infrastructure,” Anderson said. “Those residents are dealing with it. Reluctantly, at times, but they’re dealing with it.”
Following the Aug. 1 closure of the Osprey Avenue bridge for construction, Garland said he hasn’t heard any significant consternation regarding the detours.
“The preliminary feedback we’ve been getting from citizens is that they haven’t been seeing any impact,” he said. “We’ve gotten several emails from residents saying the plan has been effective in routing people around Orange Avenue and the connector streets between Orange and U.S. 41.”
At a Nov. 9 meeting, the Lift Station 87 team plans to discuss landscaping around the future wastewater facility. That meeting will also be the first public forum to discuss the efficacy of the traffic plans.
Garland said his team would keep a close eye on how the plans hold up when season begins and more cars are on the roadway. He believes things are going relatively well, but he invited any input from citizens who say otherwise.
“We appreciate the patience of the residents and we appreciate their feedback,” Garland said. “We have to keep working as a team to make sure we’re successful.”
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.