After Eye-Opening Stage Of Storm Drain Cleaning, Much More To Be Done

After Eye-Opening Stage Of Storm Drain Cleaning, Much More To Be Done
The first stage of a vast storm drain-cleaning project proved to be an eye-opener for resort officials. Pictured above, one of the outfalls in the system appears to be clogged with sand and sediment. Submitted Photo

OCEAN CITY – As work concludes on a storm drain cleaning project, a resort committee last week got a better understanding of how funds were used to remove sand and sediment from the pipes and catch basins.

At last week’s meeting of the Ocean City Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or Green Team, officials with the public works department presented their efforts, and findings, in cleaning out the town’s vast drainage system.

“We are about out of money, we are about done, and we are shutting down for the season,” said Public Works Director Hal Adkins, “but boy, was it eye-opening.”

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 learn-ed the town could piggyback on a State Highway Administration (SHA) project 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. And in mid-January, public works crews started on a months-long effort to target the resort’s most flood prone areas.

“We looked at the island, and what we thought were critical areas because we knew we only had so much money and we were not sure how far that would take us,” Public Works Deputy Director Woody Vickers said.

Over the course of two months, officials said crews focused on more than 20 streets in the blocks closest to Coastal Highway, and work was divided into three phases.

“The pipes from Coastal Highway heading west in many locations are so clogged it was inhibiting the flow,” Adkins said. “You were taking the full diameter of the pipe and cutting it in half or a third.”

Crews cleaned out more than 13,500 linear feet from 130th Street to 146th Street, more than 4,600 linear feet from 123rd Street to 125th Street, and 2,100 linear feet from 11th Street to 12th Street. Vickers said the town will use up the remainder of the $100,000 in the coming days.

“In these three critical areas, we cleaned over 20,000 linear feet of pipe, 117 catch basins, 27 manholes and we’ve estimated – and I think it could be a little more with three or four days left – over 100 cubic yards of sand and sediment that we’ve pulled out of the storm drains,” he said. “To give you an idea, if you’ve seen our dump trucks running through town, it’s almost seven of them full.”

Vickers said the public works department was also able to assess the conditions of several pipes and catch basins.

“Now we’ve created a work order for the issues we’ve seen,” he said. “It will aid us in the future and the lon-gevity of our infrastructure.”

Officials said crews found more than sand in the pipes and catch basins. They also found sediment, leaves, chunks of asphalt, sandbags and a vinyl fence post.

“We don’t even understand how some of this stuff even got in the pipes,” Adkins said.

Adkins told the committee the goal is to continue work on cleaning the drainage system in the fall. But that would require more money.

“There were strings attached that this was ongoing, not to do the whole thing but that we could have an ongoing maintenance program,” said Gail Blazer, the town’s environmental engineer. “Maybe it needs to be part of the budget.”

Councilman Tony DeLuca, who chairs the committee, agreed.

“It should be part of the [capital improvement plan] almost yearly,” he said.

Adkins added the Mayor and Council could also discuss the project with SHA at its biannual meeting in April.

“State Highway needs to step up to the plate and also start taking a proactive role in trying to clean some of these,” he said. “Otherwise, what is in the highway will eventually flush west into what we just cleaned.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.