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Sewer repairs in Baldwin could disrupt properties

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Storage sheds and backyard swimming pools might have to be moved, shrubbery dug up and decorative walls taken apart to allow for the repair of collapsed sewer lines more than 20 feet underground in Baldwin Borough.

The repair of “severely cracking” and damaged 8-inch clay piping on municipal easements in Baldwin could cause many disruptions to residential properties, said engineer Larry Souleret, who is planning a meeting with the borough manager, public-works supervisor and solicitor in the next few weeks to work out the logistics of the repairs.

“It's not easy,” Souleret said.

Borough engineers found 40 areas where repairs are needed to public sewer lines in the Streets Run Watershed, which is part of Alcosan's territory, Souleret said. In each repair area, there could be as many as 40 homes.

Alcosan and its contributory communities are under a consent decree from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state Department of Environmental Protection and county health department to achieve compliance with the Clean Water Act during periods of wet weather.

As part of the consent decree, the borough is required to monitor its sewer lines by running cameras through 20 percent of them each year, Souleret said.

A review of video taken from sewage lines in Baldwin, which is a part of two watersheds, Streets Run and Lick Run, showed numerous repairs were needed to lines in the Streets Run system, Souleret said.

“It has to be done,” said Souleret, noting the damage to the sewer lines, if bad enough, could create a health risk from raw sewage leaking onto the property.

Another concern is that groundwater could be infiltrating into the sewage system, Souleret said.

Repairing the lines will be difficult.

“We have some really deep sewers,” Souleret said.

“We have some really complicated stuff. They're on hillsides. They're on steep slope areas. They're behind yards that have sheds, large driveways. They're deep, some 20 or more feet deep. We really have to be careful with what we do in those cases.”

In many cases, shrubbery, fences and other back yard amenities will need to be moved so the sewers can be accessed for repairs.

“People are covering the manholes up,” Souleret told borough council at its meeting last week. “They build stuff over top of them. It's your easement. It's supposed to be kept clear — at least normally that's the way they're supposed to be handled.”

Where an addition to a home was built over a manhole on a borough easement, the line instead will be rerouted, Souleret said.

Council members questioned why residents were allowed to place structures on top of sewers on borough easements.

“How in the world did we allow a building permit to be issued when the plans clearly showed this?” council Vice President Michael Stelmasczyk asked. “It makes no sense to me because we control the building permit. I think we need to investigate.”

Engineers also need to be mindful of where the digging occurs so they do not trigger landslides, Souleret said.

The damage to the sewers also might be greater than initially anticipated.

In some places, the camera could not access the entire sewer line because of the damaged pipe, and officials do not know the length of the damage, Souleret said.

Borough leaders will review initial easement agreements to determine if the residents are responsible for any of the moving of property, Souleret said.

The borough issued bonds in 2011 to pay for the sewage-line repairs, borough manager John Barrett said.

“We're going to do everything we can to work with the homeowners,” Barrett said. “We'll do everything that we can to have the least disruption possible.”

The project likely will go out for bids this year and be completed in the fall.

“It's not an easy situation,” Councilman John “Butch” Ferris said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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