Sewage leak on NW 23rd Ave. won't be fixed until Oct. 27


Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.

A sewage leak caused by an aging pipe under Northwest 23rd Avenue will take until Oct. 27 to fix and in the meantime is leaking a combination of water and sewage into a ditch.

The spill was discovered Aug. 27 in the 5300 block of 23rd Avenue and the leaking sewage is being vacuumed out of the ditch, said Tony Cunningham, GRU wastewater senior engineer.

“Initially we estimated about 2,000 gallons had come out of the system. Since then, we haven’t tried to quantify the amount, mostly because we are capturing it,” Cunningham said.

“We’ve contracted with a local septage hauler. He is now going two days a week to the ditch, collecting that wastewater and hauling it off.”

The road will have to be dug up so that GRU can replace up to 50 feet of ductile iron pipe across 23rd Avenue. The pipe was laid about 1973.

Cunningham said the needed materials along with designs and plans for the repair are being made. The night of Oct. 27 was picked because it has no event, such as a University of Florida football game, that would create a lot of traffic. It should take one night — two at the most, he said.

GRU has had a spate of sewage spills over the last 12 years that has tapered off. The peak came in 2003 with 32 spills.

Some of the spills were from pipes in creeks. One spill in 2005 dumped 100,000 gallons into Tumblin Creek.

The utility blamed many of the spills on pipes clogged with cooking grease.

Alachua County Environmental Protection Director Chris Bird said that while sewage from the current spill is being collected, that will be more difficult if a heavy rain occurs.

“The good news is that, unlike some of GRU’s previous spills, this one does not directly drain into a creek,” Bird said. “They have been able to stay ahead of it, but if we had a real intense rain they probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with it. This is a temporary solution.”

Cunningham said the water being vacuumed from the ditch is a mix of sewage from that pipe, stormwater from a drainage pipe and groundwater. Several hundred gallons of the mix of water is vacuumed with each trip.

Gas in wastewater can erode pipes in pockets in which it becomes trapped. A 40- to 50-foot section of the pipe under 23rd Avenue will be replaced, while other sections that are not under the road may be relined with PVC pipe in a process called sliplining.

In the meantime, signs have been put up at the site warning people of the situation.

Todd Harris of the Alachua County Health Department said sewage contains bacteria and viruses that could sicken people, adding the health department has worked with GRU on the situation.

“Any area with untreated or partially treated wastewater does certainly present a hazard,” Harris said. “We would want people to avoid that area.”

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