City nears completion on two major utility projects

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Star Photo/Rebekah Price Elizabethton employees replace water lines off Keg Mottern Road.

Star Photo/Rebekah Price Elizabethton employees replace water lines off Keg Mottern Road.

The East Side water line replacement project is now more than 90 percent complete, according to Elizabethton Director of Engineering Johann Coetzee. Before the project began nearly two years ago, Coetzee said 70 percent of East Side’s water was leaking out due to outdated lines — the worst leak in the city.
“This is a very large accomplishment for us,” said Coetzee. “We’ve caused a lot of disruption for the public, but I’m very pleased with the results. We are now looking at our water loss figures to see what effect these changes will make, and this will take months to analyze.”
The city received a $450,000 Community Development Block Grant and one $650,000 loan for repairs. The city is only required to pay back 70 percent of the loan over 20 years with a low interest rate. Coetzee said all work afforded by the loan has been completed and that additional costs were covered in the city’s operational budget.
Cost calculations have not been finalized because the East Side project is considered an ongoing budget expense. These costs will be announced mid-January when they have been quantified, and water loss improvements will be determined in a few months.
Coetzee said one of the biggest advantages is now they are not spending money to repair old pipes over and over again, so they can use that saved money to replace other pipes.
“If we replace, it means that for the length of that line, we don’t have to go out and do repairs, and we can now allocate those resources elsewhere,” he said. “When we start putting Band-aids on Band-aids, we become very inefficient.”
Most of the 2-inch water lines that have had the most leaks were installed in the 1930s or later, with an intended lifespan significantly less than their current age, Coetzee said. The new lines have an estimated life span of 60 years.
In each project, crews have strived to work as efficiently as possible, and Coetzee said he hopes this will help make each work area more comfortable in a shorter period of time.
By focusing on one neighborhood at a time, he said they are able to concentrate efforts and be more effective.
Work areas are prioritized by the urgency of their needs, which is determined by number of leaks and service calls, water quality and other factors. East Side was an area on this list, as well as Keg Mottern Road and Burgie Street.
While the ground was open along Siam Road, Coetzee said they used that time to do sewer line maintenance as well, using extensive video and robotic equipment to repair those lines.
“It’s a large disruption for residents, but I’m very happy that we’ve got Siam Road open,” he said. “The main project is done.”
The sidewalks and roads there have also been repaired.
The last section to complete in East Side will be along Berry Road, where specialized equipment is required to break rocks to access and replace the water lines. It will be repaired in sections in the coming weeks.
“Hopefully we can limit the work to that one street to disrupt as few as possible,” said Coetzee.
Burgie Street is near completion after completely rebuilding a sewer line in one section. Coetzee said they still have to repair roads and sidewalks there, but that they are trying to complete it as quickly as possible, to avoid any further complications with dropping off children to West Side Elementary.
City officials found out several homes in that areahave been discharging sewage into the storm system, which pollutes the river, Coetzee said. When they found that out, they immediately began work redesigning the sewer system between Williams Avenue and Dakota Avenue. He said that system is replaced, with the exception of disconnecting three homes from the storm system, and the Burgie Street project overall is now 80 percent complete.
They also installed 2,000 feet of 6-inch pipe on Riverview Drive, and Coetzee said that all clients in that area have been reconnected.
Upcoming repairs will only be closed in sections and Coetzee said they should not be as difficult to bypass as the Siam repairs.
One of the next focus areas will be in Golf Course acres, where galvanized water lines were installed in the 1960s. Coetzee said that no pipe material has a permanent life span because water lines are subject to pressure changes as well as movement of the soil.
“Like any other engineering material, they become fatigued,” he said.
Some water lines in the city are 100 years old, and Coetzee said they are doing very well.
“Part of the challenge of running a water and sewer system is to recognize that materials don’t last forever and to replace and repair as part of daily business,” said Coetzee.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox