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The high cost and value of sewage

I.B. has a problem while Coronado claims Navy's dirty water

Pump Station 10, at 8th Street and Cypress Avenue
Pump Station 10, at 8th Street and Cypress Avenue

The Imperial Beach City Council set aside up to $350,000 last week (January 20) for an emergency repair to a sinkhole discovered under a sewer-system pump station; the city's Public Works Department then went to work rounding up contractors to bid on the job.

But, so far, responses aren't coming quickly. The tepid response may be because contractors usually plan farther ahead and are working now on long-ago scheduled projects, though one contractor noted that a fix-it project like this can also mean delving into the unknown.

No contractors attended the voluntary site meeting on Monday (January 25), and the response has been tepid, according to a public works employee who requested anonymity.

"We were hoping to get started fixing it Friday," she said.

A system maintenance contractor discovered the sinkhole and identified the cause around the last week of the year. A clay pipe had separated from a cast-iron pipe, and wastewater was running into the dirt underground, about 16 feet beneath the driveway into Pump Station 10, at 8th Street and Cypress Avenue, according to Hank Levine, the director of public works. A new slab of concrete seems to indicate that the sinkhole claimed part of the driveway at some point.

Residents on Cypress say they noticed the sudden departure of the contractor. They said they were worried about how long construction would block the street and have had steel plates across Cypress for a month. Both neighbors declined to give their names.

City crews came out right away and filled the sinkhole with concrete to keep the driveway and street from collapsing, a city employee said. It was bigger than they initially thought.

The emergency repair comes at a time when the city is reviewing its sewer service, infrastructure maintenance, and coming changes, including replacing the sewer line up to the old radar station known as “the dinosaur cage.”

Two proposed hotels on Seacoast Drive should bring 90,000 gallons per day of new sewage, with another 17 developments adding another 66,000. The Navy campus is expected to bring 109,000 gallons a day, by city estimates; up to 200,000 gallons per day, according to documents submitted in the dispute between cities. All of which will have to be pumped to Point Loma for treatment.

With the Navy planning to build a campus to house and train the entire Special Warfare team at the south end of the Silver Strand, the amount of sewage coming from the area should increase markedly. Coronado wants to lay claim to the Navy sewage and has filed a lawsuit to do that since the entire campus will be within Coronado's city limits.

Metropolitan Wastewater Department insiders and a couple of consultants would not go on record as to why Coronado was interested in being responsible for the Navy’s sewage but there are two theories: expected revenue and being able to spread out infrastructure costs to the Navy so locals pay less; the other is that building a heavy-duty trunk line that the Navy will pay for will make developing big projects up the peninsula easier because the infrastructure will be in place.

Imperial Beach mayor Serge Dedina several times expressed frustration over the intrusion of groundwater and sea water into the old sewer pipes at the January 20 council meeting. The council is beginning the process of setting sewer rates, based on maintenance and improvement that needs to be done. That includes cracked or leaking pipes that are taking in water from the outside.

"The aging infrastructure has salt-water intrusion," Dedina said. "We're paying more money to treat whatever is in the pipes. That means we're pumping sea water to be treated and pumped into the ocean.... Given the drought and the cost of energy, it's insane that cities have to pump water uphill to end up dumping it in the ocean."

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Pump Station 10, at 8th Street and Cypress Avenue
Pump Station 10, at 8th Street and Cypress Avenue

The Imperial Beach City Council set aside up to $350,000 last week (January 20) for an emergency repair to a sinkhole discovered under a sewer-system pump station; the city's Public Works Department then went to work rounding up contractors to bid on the job.

But, so far, responses aren't coming quickly. The tepid response may be because contractors usually plan farther ahead and are working now on long-ago scheduled projects, though one contractor noted that a fix-it project like this can also mean delving into the unknown.

No contractors attended the voluntary site meeting on Monday (January 25), and the response has been tepid, according to a public works employee who requested anonymity.

"We were hoping to get started fixing it Friday," she said.

A system maintenance contractor discovered the sinkhole and identified the cause around the last week of the year. A clay pipe had separated from a cast-iron pipe, and wastewater was running into the dirt underground, about 16 feet beneath the driveway into Pump Station 10, at 8th Street and Cypress Avenue, according to Hank Levine, the director of public works. A new slab of concrete seems to indicate that the sinkhole claimed part of the driveway at some point.

Residents on Cypress say they noticed the sudden departure of the contractor. They said they were worried about how long construction would block the street and have had steel plates across Cypress for a month. Both neighbors declined to give their names.

City crews came out right away and filled the sinkhole with concrete to keep the driveway and street from collapsing, a city employee said. It was bigger than they initially thought.

The emergency repair comes at a time when the city is reviewing its sewer service, infrastructure maintenance, and coming changes, including replacing the sewer line up to the old radar station known as “the dinosaur cage.”

Two proposed hotels on Seacoast Drive should bring 90,000 gallons per day of new sewage, with another 17 developments adding another 66,000. The Navy campus is expected to bring 109,000 gallons a day, by city estimates; up to 200,000 gallons per day, according to documents submitted in the dispute between cities. All of which will have to be pumped to Point Loma for treatment.

With the Navy planning to build a campus to house and train the entire Special Warfare team at the south end of the Silver Strand, the amount of sewage coming from the area should increase markedly. Coronado wants to lay claim to the Navy sewage and has filed a lawsuit to do that since the entire campus will be within Coronado's city limits.

Metropolitan Wastewater Department insiders and a couple of consultants would not go on record as to why Coronado was interested in being responsible for the Navy’s sewage but there are two theories: expected revenue and being able to spread out infrastructure costs to the Navy so locals pay less; the other is that building a heavy-duty trunk line that the Navy will pay for will make developing big projects up the peninsula easier because the infrastructure will be in place.

Imperial Beach mayor Serge Dedina several times expressed frustration over the intrusion of groundwater and sea water into the old sewer pipes at the January 20 council meeting. The council is beginning the process of setting sewer rates, based on maintenance and improvement that needs to be done. That includes cracked or leaking pipes that are taking in water from the outside.

"The aging infrastructure has salt-water intrusion," Dedina said. "We're paying more money to treat whatever is in the pipes. That means we're pumping sea water to be treated and pumped into the ocean.... Given the drought and the cost of energy, it's insane that cities have to pump water uphill to end up dumping it in the ocean."

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Comments
2

What's also insane is how we let millions of gallons of fresh water run into the ocean during and after rain storms. I hear someone is promoting collection tanks for individual homes. I don't see why the county doesn't install huge collection tanks and take advantage of the free water. Also, if we get the heavy rains Uncle Nino is supposed to dump on us, we can expect a lot more underground erosion, cave-ins, and related mayhem.

Jan. 28, 2016

A wise person once said that "if you build it you must maintain it". Much of our infrastructure (nationwide) has been neglected and much of the regular maintenance has been deferred. Politicians all show up when something new is built but as it ages these same politicians have other new pet project photo ops to attend. Much of San Diego's infrastructure problems are a result of Mayor Pete Wilson. He wanted to balance the budget so he did so at the expense of deferring infrastructure maintenance. The problem with contractors bidding on this project is that IB has little money and they really don't know what they will find once they dig it up. It is really easy to lose money on a construction job. I am willing to bet that IB is slow to pay so the contractor has to be able to carry the expenses of the job.

Jan. 29, 2016

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