Explain purpose, details of upcoming sewer project

Construction on the Huntington streets designated above, for a project to separate storm and sanitary sewers, will begin this spring.
Photo provided.

The purpose and details of an upcoming sewer separation project were explained to Huntington residents during a public meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 28

Mayor Steve Updike introduced Jeff DeWitt, engineering consultant of Bonar Group, and Bruce Mertz, of Geiger Excavating, the construction company that won the bid for the project.

Geiger outbid seven other companies for the project, a sign, DeWitt says, of the strained economy. The company won the bid at $2.7 million, much lower than the anticipated cost of $3.4 million.

The project is in response to a federal mandate to separate all storm and sanitary sewer systems. In doing so, the combined sewer overflows would be reduced, keeping untreated waste out of local rivers.

DeWitt says the project is not the first of its kind for Huntington. The city started the program in the 1970s after regulations regarding the sewers changed. Prior to that time, treatment for the sewage was not required. The city has undertaken a number of similar projects, sometimes associated with road projects.

"The overall effort that the city is making here is to reduce the overflows to the rivers," says DeWitt.

The current system will be converted to lines only for sanitary sewage in most areas, meaning the lines installed will act as storm sewers, DeWitt says. In the area including Division and Tipton streets, however, the opposite will take place. The area currently has drainage problems, which may be resolved by installing new sanitary lines.

Citizens who attended the meeting voiced their concerns regarding the current road and curb conditions, and worries for their post-construction state. Following numerous questions surrounding the topic, DeWitt explained, "A pre-construction video tape (will be) taken of all the roadways. If the curb is disturbed during construction to an extent that they need to be replaced, we'll replace them."
The project does include plans to replace some existing curbs, but very few, he notes.

"Not saying we won't," says DeWitt, "just that we don't plan on it right now."

Another major concern involved disruptions home and business owners would face, as well as general roadway traffic. Roads are expected to remain in use with the exception of a section of State Street. "Each road is a little bit different because some of it has rock, some of it doesn't, so we'll know what our pace is for each day," explains Mertz.

Crews will be sent to residences to inform occupants of when to expect their road to be under construction. They will also be notified during construction if their home uses lead pipes.

Workers will replace the lead pipes up to the home's meter pit; from the meter pit to the home is the owner's responsibility. It is not required that these pipes be replaced; yet crews are obligated to inform the owner that they are there.

Disruptions in water and sewer service won't remain quite as long. Mertz says he expects service to be out for only a few hours at a time.

Throughout the project, entrances to some businesses may be blocked. The Bonar Group and Geiger Excavating met with officials at the library and post office to discuss arrangements for citizens to access the buildings. Both businesses were satisfied with the plan to always keep one entrance accessible while placing detour signs around the buildings. Bonar and Geiger have yet to meet with Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream.

Updike is asking citizens for patience throughout the project, which is expected to begin the end of February, and last through December.

"There (are going to) be some headaches and hassles here for a little bit, so I ask everybody to be patient," he says.