Lengthy Sewer Project Upsets West Virginia Residents

Residents of Buckhannon, West Virginia are fed up with the city’s months-long sewer project, which is becoming an eyesore for many citizens. The city’s equipment has been parked outside many residents’ homes for weeks, with mounds of dirt blocking some homeowners’ views.

The project dates back months, from before the city’s Strawberry Festival.

Buckhannon’s sanitary department is in the process of installing about 352 linear feet of new PVC sewer pipe. The process is lengthy and messy. Unlike with trenchless sewer repair, which requires no digging, the city is forced to dig up streets to install the new piping.

Swisher and Myrna streets have both been alternately barricaded for several months as workers complete the two-phase project. The project involves replacing a failing sewer line, and demolishing and installing a new culvert.

Buckhannon started the project in August, but days go by without crews doing any work. While equipment sits on the side of the road, streets are blocked and residents are forced to take other routes home.

The sewer pipe repair on Swisher and Myrna streets has been complicated by a number of things, according to the sanitary superintendent, Erasmo Rizo.

Rizo said the project was unplanned and popped up sometime in May. Waste department workers noticed that Swisher street “flexed” when driving over it during garbage collection rounds. The city blocked off the street for safety reasons. They determined the root cause of the problem was a failing culvert, which they planned to fix.

Around the time the issue on Swisher street was discovered, the department received complaints about sewer smells and back-ups in homes. As it turns out, Rizo says, the culvert had failed on top of the sewer line and separated.

The city now has to replace the sewer line, replace the culvert and reroute the sewer line to expand the distance between it and the water line.

Much of the delay in the work, according to officials, has to do with storm water, groundwater and the weather. Buckhannon has been dealing with wet weather all month long, which has delayed operations.

On clear, dry day, officials say they can only work on the project for approximately four hours.

But residents question why the city waited so long to get the projects underway. If wet weather was a problem, why didn’t they work on the project in the dry summer months? Officials say it’s because the city did not want to pull workers off of other projects that were already scheduled and budgeted for.

The city hopes to finish work on the project within the next two weeks. At that point, the city will decide what to do about the culvert. Bad weather, officials warn, could delay things even further.

Currently, there are ten residents affected by the project on Swisher and Myrna streets. That number could swell to more than 100 homes if the line is blocked on a high water day. Those residents would potentially be dealing with flooding and backups.

The city hopes to complete the project as soon as possible, weather permitting.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.