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chuck

hole-y- crap

Nancy

Most sinkholes are caused by bad sewer pipes, not faulty geology. Maybe they should be called "pipe neglect holes"...

Worst Year Ever For Sinkholes
By Thomas Rooney
tomrooney@insituform.com
From Inside the Bay Area

The Year of the Sinkhole is just about over. And it was a doozy: Almost every state in the country had its worst year ever for sinkholes. Most of them for the same reason: With apologies to James Carville, IT’S THE PIPES STUPID!

From Hawaii to New York, Alaska to North Carolina and everywhere in between, an epidemic of breaking pipes is causing unprecedented havoc.

The sinkholes in just the first few days of December tell the story. In San Diego, the mayor held a press conference over a yawning abyss, the latest in a series of sinkholes that plague his city. In Brooklyn, a 64-year old woman fell into a five-foot sinkhole in front of her house. Back in Los Angeles, a water main break created a sinkhole 30 feet deep and shut down half of Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu. At the same time, a broken sewer pipe shut down the nearby beach.
In Northern California, an 8-foot sinkhole stunned the occupants of a nearby office building. In Grand Rapids, residents had to boil water after a sinkhole cut off their service. There were lots more. And no one is connecting the dots.

For all the damage they do, few understand how broken pipes create sinkholes.

Here’s how: Most water and sewer pipes in America were built 60 years ago, but meant to last 50 years. Do the math: They are breaking more and more as they get older and older.
When pipes break, two things happen: Water or sewage gets out; water or dirt gets in.
When sewage escapes, people get sick. The EPA estimates last year 3.5 million became ill from e. coli and other toxins released from 40,000 sewage spills.

Havoc takes a different form when dirt enters a broken pipe and is whisked away, as if on some magic carpet ride. Soon, even if only by a spoonful a day, the dirt disappears from above the pipe and below the sidewalk. Or below the road. Or below the park.

Instant sinkholes.

We also know that rain water entering broken pipes can overload sewage systems, causing even more sewage spills. Rain is often cited as the culprit, when it is really just an innocent bystander.

Pipes are not that hard to fix anymore. With video cameras to find the leaks, and new trenchless technology to fix them without the need for digging up streets, there’s really only one reason why so many broken pipes are forming so many huge sinkholes: We are not paying attention. So our pipes break.

As president of the largest sewer and water and oil pipe repair company in the world, our people are reporting that sewer spills are going from an environmental inconvenience to a full blown public health crisis.

In New Jersey, 39 people recently got sick from e. coli contamination in fast food. If the EPA is to be believed, bad pipes are making 9000 people sick every day. That is the equivalent of 20 fast food e. coli outbreaks every day.

A study at UCLA and Stanford said it is worse than that: It reported that 1.5 million people got sick from dirty beach water last year in the Los Angeles area alone, much of it from broken pipes.

In Baltimore, Johns Hopkins researchers say it is not safe to eat any fish from urban rivers.
In Hawaii, a swimmer died of septic shock from the aftermath of Hawaii largest sewage spill ever.

Every state has a story. And they are getting worse: In the last ten years, our sewer pipes have gone in small steps from lousy, to hazardous, to the outright danger they represent today.

People are starting to figure it out: Mayors in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, North Kansas City, San Diego, Pittsburgh and other cities are making sewage their top priority.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the pipes are getting worse faster than people are catching on.

The Year of the Sinkhole may be almost over, but another is ready to begin.

Thomas Rooney is the president and CEO of Insituform Technologies. He can be reached at tomrooney@insituform.com


From the New York Times
February 7, 2007
Front Page

Gaping Reminders of Aging and Crumbling Pipes

WILLIAM YARDLEY
Published February 8, 2007


PORTLAND, Ore. — After a sinkhole swallowed a sewer-repair truck here on the day after Christmas, the truck’s crew crawled to safety, muddy and mystified.

Last summer in Irving, Tex., a 2-year-old boy disappeared near a sinkhole. One theory was that he was kidnapped. Another was that he was lost in the sewer system that had broken open and caused the collapse.

In December, firefighters in Brooklyn rescued a grandmother carrying groceries who fell into a hole that opened beneath her on a sidewalk. And in Hershey, Pa., a damaged storm drain caused a six-foot-deep sinkhole in Chocolate Town Park, nearly sinking the town’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

Local and state officials across the country say thousands of miles of century-old underground water and sewer lines are springing leaks, eroding and — in extreme cases — causing the ground above them to collapse. Though there is no master tally of sinkholes, there is consensus among civil engineers and water experts that things are getting worse.

The Environmental Protection Agency has projected that unless cities invest more to repair and replace their water and sewer systems, nearly half of the water system pipes in the United States will be in poor, very poor or “life elapsed” status by 2020.

“I’m not exaggerating,” said Stephen P. Allbee, a project director in the agency’s water division who helped make the projections. “It’s a really, really big public issue, and it’s going to be with us for a long time.”

Local geology or underground hazards are blamed for many sinkholes: weak limestone in Florida, old mineshafts in Pennsylvania. But increasingly, the authorities say, as America’s cities grow older and basic repairs are put off, when the ground gives way the problem is bad pipes.

In its 2005 “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” the American Society of Civil Engineers gave water and wastewater infrastructure across the country a D-minus and suggested it would take an investment of $390 billion to bring wastewater infrastructure alone up to par.

Estimates vary on what the costs could be, but nervous water utilities and environmental groups have been campaigning to educate the public and local elected officials to get more money for repairs. But they face an uphill battle, persuading people to pay higher water and sewer rates, and politicians to approve those rates instead of building new schools, parks, libraries and roads.

“You can’t easily go to a ribbon-cutting or have your picture taken in front of a new sewer line,” said Dean Marriott, director of the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, which oversees sewer maintenance in the city. “Everyone simply counts on them working. Most people don’t know how they work or even where the system is.”

Still, Mr. Allbee, the E.P.A. official, said age and neglect could prove as fatal to a system as a catastrophic natural event or a terrorist attack.

“You can lose that system all at once because of terrorism,” Mr. Allbee said, “but you can lose it over time by just not taking care of it.”

The American Water Works Association, whose members include more than 4,700 utilities, has begun an advertising campaign “to raise this conversation about buried water infrastructure above ground,” said Greg Kail, a spokesman for the association.

One advertisement, placed in spots from bus shelters in Miami to newspapers in Anchorage, features a picture of a faucet with the words, “Do you know how often you turn me on?” Another ad in the works will focus directly on problems with water mains, and include the phrase, “Don’t let me break down in front of you.”

“The concept is to personify the infrastructure,” Mr. Kail said. “We’re not trying to scare people. We’re trying to make them aware that this is a real concern that deserves our attention to keep it from being a crisis in the future.”

The bulk of the water and sewer lines beneath American streets were installed in three phases: at the end of the 19th century, in the 1920s, and just after World War II, echoing periods of population growth in cities and expansion into suburbs.

A burst of environmentalism in the 1970s, including passage of the Clean Water Act, led to improvements in water and sewage treatment facilities and increased federal scrutiny of the water supply. But the condition of underground water and sewage pipes, many of which were built to last only 50 to 75 years, has not always received the same attention. At the same time, demand has increased.

“The pipes age, and the population increases,” said James W. Rush, editor of Underground Infrastructure Management, a trade magazine for public utility administrators. “Those are the two factors that are always at work.”

Portland has had a boom in downtown development, adding demand to its water and sewer systems.

The city is in the 16th year of a 20-year, $1.4 billion, federally mandated project to reduce sewage overflows into the Willamette River from about 100 days a year to 4 days or less. Signs in the city promote two enormous sewer and storm water lines being dug as part of the project, one on the west bank of the Willamette that is 14 feet in diameter and another on the east side that is 22 feet in diameter.

“I’ve walked them,” said Mr. Marriott, the Portland official. “You could roll a marble from one length to the next — beautiful, beautiful work. What goes in them is stuff that used to go in the river.”

Overflows are a problem in many cities, and fixing them is not cheap; Portland has some of the highest water and sewer rates in the country. Mr. Marriott said the average residential sewer bill in Portland has risen to about $45 a month from about $14 in the early 1990s, when the city began the mandated improvements.

Once the project is completed, he said, rates will probably stay high so that the city can fix other problems, like the sewer pipe decay that officials believe most likely helped cause the sinkhole in December, the one that swallowed the sewer truck.

Mack McEachern was there on that chilly morning. First the water in his apartment on Southeast Oak Street stopped running. Then the boiler in the basement began to fade. Water-utility workers came to check an exterior main. The city inspected a clogged sewer line. Something was wrong with the system, but what?

Mr. McEachern recalled how he stood outside and watched the big sewer truck start to pull away, supposedly without having pinpointed the problem.

Then, he said, “The ground shook.”

Jim

You Tube video takes you down to the sewer...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Mzh1lhV_RXE

Carol Ming

When poor countire start urbanizing and developing city structures. The contracts goes to the lowest bidder! Choices should not enitrely be based on money!!
Health and lives are at stake!

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Sewer Line repair may be something you need, but if your home is in a part of the country where the weather is bad for half of the year, there may not be much you can do about it until spring arrives

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Wow, what a mess...Thanks for posting!

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Could this happen in Chicago or US cities?

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When I heard about that phenomenon, I didn't believe it. That's until I saw it in the news. I never knew that things like that could happen. How were the residents in the area supplied with water if the pipelines were destroyed? I hope that Guatemala City had enough water rations for the residents.

This is where stormwater treatment facilities come into play. This is one of the many solutions on how a community can save a lot more water. Have you noticed some irrigation systems using potable water? Some do, right? If that continues, we're going to run out of potable water. It's not instant, but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry.

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