Sewage problems continue to plague

First Posted: 5/22/2009

Theyre out of sight, but sewage lines definitely havent been out of mind lately for Mount Airy officials struggling with constant malfunctions with no money budgeted to rehabilitate the aging system.
The most recent problems have occurred with a 15-inch wastewater line located near Lovills Creek in the area of Mount Airy High School, city officials were told during a meeting Thursday night.
Public Services Director Jeff Boyles informed the mayor and Board of Commissioners that four breaks have occurred in that section over the past six weeks.
Its collapsing in different places, Boyles said. Weve never had this to happen. The situation has posed difficulties since the line carries a high volume of wastewater, he added.
The most recent failure is symptomatic of Mount Airys aging wastewater infrastructure, since the pipes were installed sometime in 1953, Boyles said. Some portions of Mount Airys utility infrastructure are much older, however, dating to 1900.
Boyles also told the commissioners Thursday night that a stoppage had been reported earlier that day in the East Lebanon Street area.
Line breaks and sewage spills have been more frequent than usual here since the first of the year, when Boyles remined the commissioners during an annual retreat of the need for an ongoing rehabilitation program.
He said then that corrective work with a price tag of about $1.8 million annually is needed to maintain the citys water-sewer infrastructure. Failure to correct deteriorating lines is ignoring a situation that wont go away and passing the problem to the next generation, Boyles has said.
Officials have agreed that the present situation represents a ticking time bomb under city streets and neighborhoods, but havent been able to allocate funding for rehabilitation due to the economy.
No money is included for ongoing rehabilitation of water and sewer lines in Mount Airys proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which City Manager Don Brookshire said normally would be delegated a significant amount. But that is not the case because of a need to control the growth of the municipal budget, Brookshire said.
Our long-term plan calls for the resumption of our rehab program in (Fiscal Year 2011-12 ), according to the city manager.
Meanwhile, officials said earlier that Mount Airy would apply for money through the federal stimulus plan to rehabilitate aging sewer lines at various locations identified as problem areas. The work targeted carries a $425,000 price tag, which would address the deficiencies to a small degree by improving 4,000 feet of line. Mount Airy has about 110 miles of sewer lines in all.
Officials likely wont know the outcome of the stimulus request until this summer.
One of the city commissioners referred to Boyles frequent warnings about the situation when the latest problems were discussed Thursday night.
I want to applaud Jeff for not saying, I told you so, said Commissioner Todd Harris.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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