SMITHFIELD – The Town Council last week approved replacing a damaged 100-foot section of a sewer main that caused a large sinkhole at the intersection of Cross Street and Whipple Avenue last year.

During a meeting last Tuesday, Sept. 7, Town Engineer Kevin Cleary explained to the Town Council that several amendments to the Wastewater Treatment Facility’s maintenance contract with Veolia Water were needed to finance the repairs.

These included an additional $88,208.55 to repair the sewer line on Whipple Avenue and $222,150 to replace the facility’s primary treatment system pump spooling pipes.

Cleary said the Whipple Avenue sewer line’s issues were discovered last year, but it cost too much to repair at the time. He said repairs without excavation were not successful.

An attempt was made to add the repairs to the 2021 capital improvement budget, he said, to stave off the work for several months. Cleary said there is a good amount of engineering involved due to the complexities at the intersection, which includes a bridge.

According to the amendment, the 15-inch sewer main is failing in multiple locations and caused “differential settlement” on the road above and intrusion of groundwater into the sewer system.

“We found a favorable remedy for the 100-foot pipe in the ground,” Cleary said.

The council unanimously approved fixing the Whipple Avenue pipe. Cleary removed two items from the original proposal to bring the price down, including new manholes for $17,000 and a contingency line of $9,432.

The work will involve closing Whipple Avenue between Cross and Higgins Streets and bypassing sewage across the Woonasquatucket River Bridge on Whipple Avenue during pipe replacement, according to Cleary.

In a separate issue, Cleary said several deficiencies in the primary pumping sections at the wastewater treatment facility were only recently discovered despite inspections at the plant.

Council members questioned how the pipe’s conditions could deteriorate so badly while the plant was receiving inspections. Cleary explained most of the pipes and flanges in need of replacement were overhead.

“Both on the inside of the pumps and outside of the pumps the spool piping which conveys all the plant’s sewage has been found to have corroded flanges, cracked wells and after 50 years of use and vibration, have presented a pretty significant problem,” he said.

He added that the piping trains are not at true flat gravity, and some need to be pumped up to the center.

To remedy the situation and pay for the project, the Sewer Authority chose to remove two planned capital improvements to reallocate funding to pay for the project. As such, Veolia created a second amendment for its replacement.

Cleary said the wastewater treatment facility is already working with the town’s grant writer, Lisa Andoscia, to find alternative funding for the capital projects removed from the list. Town Manager Randy Rossi said they’ve already tried to piggyback funds from the infrastructure bank with funding from the US Army Corps of Engineers to offset costs.

He said he hopes some federal stimulus funds could be used for the repair, as well. Regardless, he said, the repair is too significant to stall.

“We’re afraid to hold off on this repair,” he said.

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