OC’s Storm Drain Project Reviewed

OCEAN CITY — With the first phase of a massive storm draining cleaning project in the books, resort officials this week got an overview of just how much material was removed from the system.

Last year, it came to light Ocean City’s storm drainage system had not been systematically cleaned in over three decades. In the three decades-plus since, the town’s storm drains have steadily clogged to the point they were contributing somewhat to the town’s chronic flooding problem in some areas.

To that end, the town’s public works department, in conjunction with the State Highway Administration (SHA), embarked on the first phase of a thorough, systematic cleaning of the town’s drainage system with priority in the first phase give to known trouble spots. As the project commenced, it was learned the extent of the damage was greater then first believed.

SHA crews worked to clear some of the problem areas along state-owned Coastal Highway and continued the project until the first phase of funding ran out this spring and the summer season approached. SHA officials have promised to resume storm-drain cleaning after the season if funding is available.

Ocean City, meanwhile, dedicated $100,000 for its portion of the storm-drain cleaning project. The first phase of the town’s share came from reserves in the critical area mitigation program. During Tuesday’s work session, Public Works Director Hal Adkins and his staff presented an overview of the first phase of the storm-drain cleaning project to the Mayor and Council.

In total, the first phase included cleaning 24,000 linear feet of storm-drain pipes, 144 catch basins and 31 manholes. During the 25 working project days, 131 cubic yards of sand and sediment was removed from the town’s drainage system.

“We took a little over eight large dump trucks full of material during this first phase,” said Deputy Public Works Director Woody Vickers. “That’s a lot of material taken out of the system.”

During Tuesday’s presentation, Adkins presented before-and-after pictures of some of the catch basins and outfalls cleaned out during the first phase of the massive project. In some cases, the drains were blocked by 50 percent or more. In other cases, massive amounts of material that otherwise shouldn’t have been in the various catch basins and outfalls were depicted.

“Some of the pictures were quite disturbing,” said Adkins. “We found big chunks of asphalt in some of the catch basins, which we believe got in there during the many paving projects.”

Adkins pointed out one particular area in the uptown area where a large-diameter drainage pipe had essentially disappeared.

“Anyone familiar with the flooding issues in that area knows there is an outfall into the bay at 125th Street,” he said. “What we learned is that outfall has completely collapsed. We haven’t found it yet.”

Adkins said the overview presented on Tuesday was just a snapshot of what had been done thus far and what was yet to be done. He said the town will resume the next phases of the storm-drain cleaning projects in the fall. During budget deliberations last month, the Mayor and Council dedicated $100,000 annually to the storm drain cleaning project.

Adkins said the first phase included many of the known trouble spots and the extent of the damage could be less going forward.

“I want the council and the public to know the town has funded $2.5 million in roadway projects,” he said. “There are large sections of town where the roadways are relatively new, and we anticipate finding fewer problems in those areas.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.