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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Barrier Island Sewage Pipes Burst, Leak Into Avalon Manor Marshes

By Leslie Truluck

SWAINTON — Raw wastewater spilled into the marsh area near Avalon Manor Sept. 6 and Sept. 13 due to two holes rusted in 24-inch diameter force main pipelines that run along the north side of Avalon Boulevard, which convey water from Avalon, Stone Harbor and Sea Isle City to the Seven Mile/Middle Wastewater Treatment Facility in Crest Haven.
Both leaks were stopped and secured within 24 hours of their discovery.
One week after the Sept. 6 leak, a second leak occurred on its sister pipeline about a half-mile east of the original leak near Avalon Manor.
Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority’s contacted its miscellaneous contractor, Buried Piping Systems, which found the leak and repaired it. Caprioni Sewage Service controlled discharge by pumping overflow of wastewater into tank trucks for transport to the wastewater treatment plant.
After the first leak, flow was conveyed to the sister pipeline. When that one leaked, flow was conveyed back to the initial line.
“All pipelines have been repaired and are back in service,” Executive Director Charles Norkis said.
Norkis showed Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority (CMCMUA) members a piece of pipe with a hole in it during its meeting Sept. 16. He noted that it had full thickness around the hole.
Norkis said the leak was likely caused by methodic cathodic damage from corrosive salty soil that ate away at particular areas where coating or plastic lining was missing.
He said other areas of the pipe are in good shape.
The pipes are about 1,000 feet long and hold 23 gallons of sewage per foot, which would total 23,000 gallons of sewage capacity, Norkis said.
“Now what?” Authority member William Burns Jr. asked.
In the short-term, Norkis said the authority is having cathodic damage specialist test the area and will apply anodes, a “sacrificial metal” that attracts electrodes, to deter corrosion.
As for long-term plans, the authority will seek state loans through the Environmental Infrastructure Trust to line both pipes with a strong plastic for ensured protection.
Norkis said the plastic pipe lining is so strong that, even if the metal were to fully corrode, which is not anticipated, the plastic would hold up and serve the purpose of the pipeline.
These long-term improvements are expected to cost up to $5 million.
Board members attributed the leaks to systems getting older. The pipelines were installed 25 years ago and pump about 5 million gallons of sewage per day from the three barrier island towns, Norkis said.
Chairman George Betts said the authority would continue paying debt service for the pipe systems until 2016.
“We’re still paying on what fell apart,” he said, likening it to making car payments on a broken vehicle. The authority paid for the system through a 30-year bond, Norkis said.
Burns said pipes did not leak from neglect or lack of maintenance on part of the authority.
The extent of the recent repairs will likely exceed the approved contract amount of $52,113 that the authority authorized under the Miscellaneous Buried Piping Contract awarded earlier this year to Lafayette Utility Construction Co., Inc., Norkis wrote in a Sept. 11 memo.
Lafayette is the only vendor whose expenses are expected to exceed $17,500, which is the limit under which a single vendor can be awarded a contract without a bid process under state Pay-to Play Law.
Authority members passed a resolution declaring the situation an emergency in order to pay all vendors without the usual required bid advertisement.
“This circumstance was clearly an emergency as defined by N.J.S.A 40:11-6, since it represented a situation in which the public, health, safety and welfare was affected,” Norkis wrote.
Contact Truluck at (609) 886-8600 ext. 24 or at: ltruluck@cmcherald.com.

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