OCEAN CITY – Work on a project to clean Ocean City’s vast drainage system began uptown last week, but a state-led effort to clean the pipes and catch basins along Coastal Highway has since stopped.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said crews last week began the difficult task of cleaning out the resort’s storm drain system for the first time in several years.
“It’s extremely eye opening what we’ve seen so far,” he said.
In September, the Mayor and Council learned the town’s extensive storm drain system had not been cleaned since September 1985, shortly after Hurricane Gloria passed through Ocean City. Since that time, the town’s drainage system – which includes roughly 46 miles of pipe, 2,400 catch basins and 330 outfalls into the coastal bays – has clogged with sediment, contributing to the town’s chronic flooding problems.
Late last year, resort officials learned the town could piggyback on a State Highway Administration (SHA) project to clean drainage systems throughout Maryland and that the town’s share of funding could be taken from the critical area mitigation fund.
To that end, the Mayor and Council in October voted to transfer $100,000 from the fund to the project for the first year, just as SHA crews began working in the uptown area to clean some of the catch basins along Coastal Highway.
SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said last week work has since stopped on the SHA project, but not before crews discovered a collapsed pipe near 99th Street.
“The current contract reached its lapse point, so there is no time remaining,” he said. “As a new contract is put forth, the pipe repair will restart, likely later this winter or very early spring. The lane remains closed within that one block area and has not created major congestion.”
Mike Marvel, resident maintenance engineer for SHA, said the timeline for the pipe repair will depend largely on the weather.
“It’s going to take probably a week to replace that pipe,” he said. “It’s 200 feet long from end to end.”
Regardless, Adkins said work along the state right of way would not affect the town’s cleaning project.
“When it’s all said and done they did what they could,” he said. “That’s not going to stop us from what we have to do.”
On Monday, public works crews began work on city storm drains along Sinepuxent Avenue. Public Works Deputy Director Woody Vickers said over the course of four days workers have moved south from 145th Street to 141st Street.
“We went into this knowing we would find a lot of material,” he said. “But we are finding more material than we originally thought.”
Adkins noted as crews move south, the town would have a better idea of how much the project will cost.
“On Sinepuxent Avenue, there is a north-south pipeline of a large diameter with east-west pipes that feed into it and we are finding unbelievable amounts of sand and dirt,” he said. “I think we are going to quickly expend our $100,000.”
Vickers said officials would reevaluate the project as it moves forward.
“We have to see how far the $100,000 will take us and what impact that has on the project,” he said, “and then we’ll reassess the budget.”
While it is unknown how long it will take to clean the town’s storm drain system, Vickers said the project would identify aging pipes and catch basins and address flooding issues as work progresses.
“We are getting a lot of benefit from this cleaning project,” he said. “Not only are we cleaning the catch basins and piping, but we are also assessing the conditions of those catch basins and piping and noting if they need repairs.”
Vickers said he anticipated work to continue in the coming weeks.
“It’s going well,” he said. “We will proceed for several more weeks unless the weather gets bad.”