BERLIN — Due to the condition of the sewer line underneath it, Washington St. will only be getting a mild facelift this fall instead of the extensive reworking town officials considered earlier this month.
“We can’t guarantee the sewer [under Washington St.] won’t have a failure tomorrow,” Water Resource Director Jane Kreiter told the Berlin Mayor and Council last Tuesday.
During a council meeting earlier this month, Kreiter was asked to send a camera through the sewer lines under Washington St. The council planned to use Kreiter’s findings to help make a decision on whether to repave Washington St. or to commit to excavating the street for more serious repairs. After seeing the condition of the lines, Kreiter suggested the council hold off on major work, as the vibrations could cause the old sewer lines to degenerate even faster.
“The waterlines are very shallow,” said Kreiter while showing the council internal video of the pipes.
She pointed out trouble spots where caulk has worn away or roots have crept in.
“It’s not a good situation … We did discover a very weak link,” said Kreiter.
The lines under the street, she continued, are between 70-75 years old, and not in the best of shape, especially considering how many people are affected by the pipes.
“It’s a very important line,” said Kreiter.
“It’s a main artery,” agreed Mayor Gee Williams.
Though the situation isn’t ideal, Kreiter did have some good news. While stormwater can leak into the pipes through gaps during storms, due to the depth of the water table it is difficult for water to leak out of the lines. The council was also confident enough with the current lines that it’s willing to wait a few years until funding is available to replace the whole system. And if the worst should happen and the lines collapse, said Williams, the town will be able to respond immediately.
In order to extend the life of the pipes, the council agreed to Kreiter’s suggestion not to expose them to an abundance of vibration and excavation at this time. However, Williams was uncomfortable with simply leaving Washington St. as is. He said that it was not “realistic” to leave a street like that unpaved for decades.
Public Works Director Mike Gibbons advised minor work to be done on the road, including milling, adding a wedge and filling in cracks. Though the lighter treatment isn’t a permanent solution, Gibbons explained the street will be in much better condition for at least the immediate future.
“It’s possible we’ll see cracks back after 4-5 years,” he said, “but nothing like we see now.”
“Obviously, we want to get as much life out of it [Washington St.] as we can,” agreed Williams.
The council approved the work, which will cost roughly $50,000, and promised residents that they will revisit issues with the pipes in the future after a University of Maryland Eastern Shore stormwater study is completed later this year. Money for the project will be split between $37,000 originally budgeted for work on the street, with the remainder coming from leftover funds used for crosswalk and sidewalk improvement.
Williams stressed that the cost of the project, as well as additional follow-up projects, can be readily absorbed by Berlin.
“The town is in sound financial condition … we always operate on a balanced budget,” he said. “We will constantly be having major improvements.”