Oct. 16, 2015 08:23

Age Taking Its Toll on Stormwater Pipes

Savannah, Georgia’s 19th-century stormwater pipelines are caving in, and the cost of maintaining the brick structures continues to add up. The city plans to spend about $500,000 to install a new drainage line, after one of the brick pipes caved in about four months ago, according to city officials.

Built in the years after the Civil War, the brick lines were at one time connected to the city’s sewer system, and the city has an ongoing program to locate any missed links that need to be separated.

The city has no set schedule for replacing the brick pipes, but staff determines whether it makes economic sense to continue repairing them on a case-by-case basis. Over time, the expansion caused by the water within the lines, as well as pressure exerted from the outside, can cause the pipes’ bricks to loosen and cave in.

The city eventually plans to abandon all of the brick line. Instead, stormwater will be rerouted via an underground line, which will run under the sidewalk. “Nobody will even know it’s there,” said John Sawyer, public works and water resources bureau chief.

The expense to build the new line is being covered using funds from the capital reserve fund for unbudgeted expenses, according to Melissa Carter, Savannah’s research and budget director.

“There is a lot to be said for historic preservation,” said Sawyer.

“But when it comes to transferring stormwater, we prefer that it actually works.”

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In many ways, we are fortunate that, in our chosen profession, we are able to help people when certain disasters occur: the tornadoes in Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Georgia, the flooding in Louisiana, the snows in the northeastern part of the country, the rain in California, and the snow in Colorado....

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