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Leaky pipes create GMD congestion

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  • | 4:00 a.m. April 6, 2011
The northbound lane in the 2800 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive is being rerouted while a wastewater pipe is repaired.
The northbound lane in the 2800 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive is being rerouted while a wastewater pipe is repaired.
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An old, corroding, iron wastewater pipe that funnels all of the sewer water on the south end of the Key is wasting away and creating flooding. Now the possibility exists that Gulf of Mexico Drive may need to be torn up to replace it.

A small portion of the 30-year-old pipe was scheduled to be replaced this summer, along with a wastewater lift station in the area, but Mother Nature has severely corroded a 50-foot section of the pipe and created a major construction zone, complete with concrete construction barriers, just north of Bay Isles Road in the northbound lane.

Work to repair the pipe, which is 24 inches in diameter and sits 15 feet underground, began Friday, April 1, and it could take at least a week to completely stop the leak, which has flooded Bicentennial Park.

“We located the pipe, found it extremely deteriorated, and it was obvious we were in deep trouble,” said Public Works Director Juan Florensa said.

The town has not had to stop wastewater service from Bay Isles Road to the south end of the Key, because when it works on the pipe, wastewater is pumped out manually into trucks that are transporting the water into other manholes on the Key. Without performing that process, residents would be seeing backups in their toilets and sinks.

Florensa told the Longboat Key Town Commission at its Monday, April 4 regular meeting that the town planned to make a $30,000 repair to the pipe starting at 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 5.

The technique, which has been used to make repairs on other portions of the Key’s aging water-and-wastewater pipeline system, involves sending a camera into the pipe to survey the damage.

Then, a small machine will be sent into the pipe to scrub the walls of the pipe before placing a new pipe lining over the old pipe.

If it works, the life expectancy of the pipe would be 50 to 75 years.

But Florensa warned that the procedure is not being done under ideal circumstances after last week’s storm and because the island was hit with more wind and rain Tuesday. The pipe is also in worse shape than any other his staff has encountered.

“We have other options, but the pipe would most likely have to be replaced and it wouldn’t be an ideal situation for motorists,” Florensa said. “That could be a long and painful process.”

For Longboat Key motorists, the repair currently is causing delays in the area, although town staff and the Florida Department of Transportation have maintained two smaller lanes at most times because that section of the state road is wider in that area.

Workers created a temporary fix Sunday, April 3 by replacing a 12-foot section of the pipe with PVC pipe.
Town Manager Bruce St. Denis noted that the Public Works Department staff has been working day and night on the problem since Friday.

“This is a miserable, miserable project and everything that went wrong went wrong,” St. Denis said. “But our staff and contractor have worked together and service to our residents has been maintained during the height of season.”

Also Friday, a leak in a wastewater pipe at Jungle Queen Way and Gulf of Mexico Drive was discovered.
Florensa said his crews discovered two, 10-inch diameter holes on the side of a concrete manhole. The openings allowed sand to enter the town’s sewer main and completely block it. The sand was removed, and the necessary repairs to the pipe are being performed this week.

Florensa said it’s too soon to know what it will cost to make all the repairs in both areas.

In an email to the Town Commission April 2, Florensa noted that the severe thunderstorms that hit the Key
Thursday, March 31 and brought 6.5 inches of rainfall last week could have led to the problems at both locations.

“It is interesting that these two very unusual events have occurred within 12 hours of each other,” wrote Florensa in his email. “One theory is that the very large amount of rainfall we received earlier in the week created a surcharge into our system due to ground-water infiltration into our wastewater system.”

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]



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