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Route 40 sewer line in danger of collapsing, Aberdeen officials warn

Route 40 sewer line in danger of collapsing, Aberdeen officials warn
A sewer line that runs under Aberdeen's Route 40 is in danger of collapsing, city officials said. The line, shown in red, is south of Route 22. (Photo courtesy City of Aberdeen, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Aberdeen's public works director warned Monday that a portion of nearly-century-old sewer line under Route 40 is in danger of imminent collapse.

"We know it's going to fail. We just don't know when," new public works director Kyle Torster told city leaders.

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Torster noted the 18-inch sewer interceptor, which runs just south of, and parallel to, Route 22, handles about 750,000 gallons daily.

"That amounts to a lot of sewage," Torster said after the meeting. "The bottom line is, there is no place for us to treat that amount of sewage [if it collapses] and there is no way for us to re-route it."

Replacing the interceptor would cost at least $100,000, he told the City Council during a work session.

"It is pretty expensive," he added.

The concrete pipe, which carries about a third to half of Aberdeen's total sewage, has been eaten away by hydrogen sulfide gas, Torster explained. He showed council members video of the inside of the ragged pipe, with large sections of it missing completely.

The pipe is "starting to collapse and will be pretty hard to fix," he said.

Although the city's sewer lines are interconnected, the pipe collects sewage from about half the city, mostly west of Route 40, as well as part of the north and south sides of Route 22, Torster said.

According to the map Torster showed the council members, the pipe runs from just north of the CSX train tracks across Route 40 and ends just south of the Amtrak tracks.

The portion that is failing is about 75 feet to 100 feet long and runs from approximately the median in Route 40 to the Amtrak tracks, he said.

Route 40 would most likely not be directly affected if the pipe collapsed, Torster said after the meeting. A concrete encasement above the line would limit danger to the major thoroughfare.

A major sewage back-up would occur, however, and city officials would have limited options for handling it, he said.

The public works department is reviewing three possible contractors for the project and hopes to come before the city council soon with a budget amendment, Torster told the council.

The department hopes to start work on the project in June or July, after meeting with State Highway Administration in March and getting permits in April.

The department looked into four options for repairing or replacing the sewer collector line and officials believe opening a trench and putting a new pipe in place makes the most sense, Torster said.

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The pipe is more than 75 years old and "has definitely extended its service life," Josh Quesenbery, of the public works department, told the council.

The new pipe would not be made of concrete, Torster said. The exact material would be determined by the method of repair.

Work would be done from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and only in dry weather, Torster said.

Mayor Mike Bennett said the report was "certainly jaw-dropping, but it is something that has to be done."

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