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Sewer fix for New Castle County will cost $10 million

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Courtesy of New Castle County
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A section of New Castle County’s sewer line is damaged and needs emergency repairs.

While repairing the headworks of the Wilmington treatment plant in July, workers found pieces of concrete liner broken off from a steel sewer pipe next to the treatment plant’s inlet.

The breach that needs repair is a 7 ft by 3 ft section of the Christina River Force Main, a line that runs about 10 miles from Newport and Stanton to the Wilmington treatment plant. Flows from the force main range from 50 million gallons a day during dry weather to 150 million gallons on days with heavy rainfall.

This line serves about 86,000 homes and 2,000 commercial businesses, said Tracy Surles, the acting general manager of New Castle County’s Special Services department. The county is calling for an emergency fix.

“This is our I-95 of our sewer pipes bringing all the sewer collected elsewhere to the treatment plant for treatment,” Surles said.

She continued, “It services the greatest portion of our county. About 60 percent of the flows north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal eventually come to this pipe to be taken to the treatment plant.” 

Officials say the fixes will cost $10 million, but they don't know what caused the problem.

Tony Schiavi, New Castle County’s assistant county engineer, says the failure was surprising. The pipes typically have an 80-year lifespan and this one is only 40 years old.

The county brought in divers this past summer to inspect it.

“And one of the things that they noticed was there was some minor deterioration in the pipe and it’s really as you would expect a pipe of that age at that point in its life cycle to sustain,” Schiavi said.

Schiavi said they’ll likely need three 48-inch lines running on the ground parallel with the pipe. They’ll have to go underneath 12th St. to accommodate traffic to the treatment plant. Staff will tap in a temporary line.

What will complicate the repairs, Schiavi said, is there are two petroleum lines over the pipe, which operate at a very high pressure – a critical factor in how they’ll repair the pipe.

Officials are asking the New Castle County Council for an amendment to the budget to pay for it.

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