Baltimore-Area Sewer Line Running Beneath Highway Could Soon Collapse

A nearly century-old stretch of Aberdeen, MD’s sewer line system that runs beneath Route 40 is in danger of imminent collapse, the city’s public works director has warned.

According to a February 4 Baltimore Sun article, new public works director Kyle Torster has told city officials that the 18-inch sewer interceptor, which transports as much as 750,000 gallons each day, must be replaced immediately.

“The bottom line is, there is no place for us to treat that amount of sewage [if it collapses] and there is no way for us to re-route it,” Torster said.

Over the years, the pipe’s interior has been eaten away by hydrogen sulfide gas — with large sections of the pipe completely missing today. One of the biggest hurdles to replacing this 75 to 100-foot stretch of concrete pipe, however, is the project’s estimated cost: at least $100,000.

If the pipe collapses, it likely won’t disrupt traffic on Route 40, as a concrete encasement separates the sewer line from the road. It would, however, result in a profound sewage back-up, as the pipe is responsible for collecting sewage from about half the city of Aberdeen.

The Aberdeen sewer line’s condition reflects a much larger problem facing the Baltimore-area sewage system. As recently as July 2014, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spoke out on the issue of the city’s crumbling sewer lines.

“We must be diligent in preventative maintenance for all the city’s sewer pipes, if we are not proactive or if we do not take a proactive stance with the necessary video inspections then we run the risk of situations like this where a pipe could collapse,” explains Jeremy Schultz of Blue Works Company. “The goal is to diagnose a pipe before it gets to an imminent collapse scenario.”

Despite the project’s cost, the Sun reports that Aberdeen’s public works department is currently reviewing three different contractors for the sewer line replacement work. After getting permits from the State Highway Administration, the department plans to begin construction by June or July.

Unlike the current sewer line, the replacement pipe will not be made of concrete. The material used will depend on the method of pipe repair, according to Torster.

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