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City sewer projects will soon bust up streets, come indoors

June 09, 2010
BERLIN — Improvements and additions to the city's sewer infrastructure is going to have a real impact on residents. Soon a "quick" drive up East Milan Road won't be so fast, and there will be other effects as well.

The city is preparing several projects, from improving its aging sewer pipeline near White Mountains Community College to dealing with connection issues on the East Side. But the project residents are likely to notice is the connection to the federal prison.

Workers have already started putting silt barriers up along East Milan Road, city public works director Michael Perreault said, which marks the first steps in the prison project. The black fabric is along the river side of the road all the way to the 12th Street Bridge.

The city won the bid for the federal prison's wastewater, which will be piped down to the wastewater treatment plant on the south end of the city. But in order to make the connection, Mr. Perreault said, a lot of work has to be done, and its going to happen on East Milan Road.

Or more accurately, in East Milan Road.

The road will soon be one lane, he said, with stop lights at each end to control traffic. It's going to slow things down for some time, he said, so residents should be aware of the disruption.

The work has already started, he said, and it will last through the summer, fall and into next spring.

The BOP connection project is the most visible project the city is undertaking, but it won't necessarily be the most disruptive, depending on where you live.

The city is looking to eliminate as much storm water as is possible from the sewer system, because every gallon of storm water that reaches the wastewater treatment plant gets treated needlessly, at the city's (and therefore residents') expense.

Eliminating that infiltration of storm water will be a huge task, Mr. Perreault said, but it's something to city is determined to do.

They have two projects lined up to reduce infiltration and inflow, often called I&I.

The first one is an old pipe between WMCC and the city's pump station near the Dairy Bar that lets in water every time it rains. It's close to the river, Mr. Perreault said, and when the river level rises the treatment plant gets overwhelmed. This section of pipe is one of the primary culprits, he said. "These cracks and infiltration, they don't heal."

But the pipe is in field by the river—not the sort of place people are going to notice sewer work.

The East Side, however, is a different story.

Building roof drains all over the city empty into the sewer system instead of the storm water system, Mr. Perreault said, as do sump pumps and perimeter drains. And instead of channeling rainwater and streams to the river, he said, it all gets treated at the treatment plant, again at the city's expense.

The city's treatment plant can handle 2.6 million gallons of wastewater a day, he said, but when a rainstorm hits flows can reach 11 million gallons. Again, these roof drains are part of the problem.

So, Mr. Perrault said, the city is going to do something about them.

"It's going to be disruptive," he said. "We're going to go into people's homes."

They will target the East Side first, he said, because this is where the biggest gains are possible. The city will be contacting residents and working with them to switch connections inside their houses from one system to the other, he said, because overall it will have a major impact on the system.

"The return is tremendous," he said. "I'm hoping to offset [the Bureau of Prison's] flows."

The BOP is projecting 240,000 gallons per day.

Right now the plant is operating over 80 percent capacity, which means the city has to get state approval to attach any more big users. With two biomass facilities, the federal prison and the refuse district all looking toward the facility to address their needs the city has to find out how to push down that number.

"This I&I is not a new issue," Mr. Perreault said. "It's going to be a challenge."

It's a challenge residents are going to know more about soon.

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