Aging sewer line breaks yet again

 - Photo by Luis Barrantes
— image credit: Photo by Luis Barrantes

POULSBO — The aging sewer line running along Liberty Bay from BayView Fitness to the Sons of Norway cracked for the second time in six months Tuesday.

Unlike the Sept. 29 spill, which was estimated at 553,000 gallons, Tuesday’s was estimated at 5,000 gallons.

The leak occurred between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. about 150 yards south of BayView Fitness and public works crews responded to the site at 12:15 p.m., City Engineer Andrezj Kasiniak told the city council’s public works committee Wednesday night.

Excavation of the pipe showed a 2- to 3-inch hole in the pipe, which was repaired by 2 p.m., Kasiniak said.

“This is the second time when I’ve seen the pipe exposed and noted a small indention,” he said.

Even though the city is still working on installing a telemetry system, which will automatically notify officials of sewer problems, the leak was noticed during a review of its performance data that morning, Kasiniak said.

“We noticed something funny with our numbers and were able to trace it,” Kasiniak said.

Former public works director Jeff Lincoln, who handled the Sept. 29 spill and was at the meeting, said the pipe should last for at least 50 years but it may have been handled incorrectly during installation.

“When it’s installed, they’re supposed to block it up and recoat it,” Lincoln said. “I bet they didn’t do a good enough job of recoating it.”

Without enough coating on the pipe, the saltwater in the bay will corrode it, leading to the kinds of leaks that occurred Tuesday, he said.

Completion of the Bond Road Pump Station and Bond Road Force Main will allow the city to abandon that line, Lincoln said.

Planning Director Barry Berezowsky said the city learned a lot from the Sept. 29 incident, which played a role in limiting the scope of Tuesday’s spill.

“It’s very difficult to assess the condition of the pipe until we have a way of bypassing the system and taking a closer look at the pipe,” Berezowsky said.

Mayor Kathryn Quade said she was pleased with the way public works crews responded to the incident as well as with the progress being made toward implementing the monitoring system.

“We’re halfway there and it will actually alert us (when something is wrong),” Quade said of the new system.

However, the spill underscores the need for redundancy within the sewer system and the need for looking alternative technologies, she said.

“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when it’s going to fail and we need to know if anybody out there has found a temporary solution,” Quade said.

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