Worker Down The Tubes In Pursuit Of Septic Repairs

January 15, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

TANEYTOWN — It will be one heck of a way to start a job, but the city will breakin its new utility worker by sending him to inspect at least 400 manholes in preparation for a major sewer repair and maintenance project.

It might not be so bad, though. City Manager Neal Powell said the sanitary sewers into which the manholes lead aren't as smelly as you might think.

"There is a slight septic odor," he said, but most of what runs through the sewer pipes is surprisingly clear.

That's part of the problem, in fact. The reason the repairs are needed is that ground water is seeping into the sanitary sewers and making its way to the sewage treatment plant. That means the city is wasting time, money and effort treating already clean ground water, Powell said.

The City Council voted Monday night to have one of its own workers trained by anengineering firm to inspect the manholes and make an inventory of what work needs to be done. Powell said he expects the repair job to cost about $100,000.

But bids could come in much higher once the project is advertised. Engineer Dennis J. Michael of Camp Dresser & McKee Inc. told the council the job could cost about $190,900.

"To me,that's highly inflated," Powell said. But he said no one will know until after the inventory, and then after the bids come in.

"No twomanholes will get the same treatment," Powell said. Most of them arethe old brick masonry type, rather than the newer ones made of precast concrete.

The state of disrepair is not unusual for a 40-year-old system, Powell said.

Money for the project will come from a sewer benefit assessment fund, which now contains $234,565, Powell said.The money comes from $2,000 fees assessed on every new house built in the city.

"That's all the money can be used for," he said of thesewer repairs.

Powell said the inspections could start in February, shortly after new worker Robert Francis Bowers III starts work. Bowers was hired to fill a vacancy on the five-person staff. Because winter is a slow time of year for the Utility Department, it will be able to devote Bowers to the inspection.

One part-time worker will stand by above ground for safety.

The council also voted to buy safety equipment for the job, including a gas detector, which cost $13,075, and a $170 safety harness for Bowers.

The detector, a sort of high-tech canary, would warn of the presence of toxic or explosive gases, in addition to any they might be able to detect with their noses.

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