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Pipe Collapse May Be Imminent in Bellevue as SD1 Considers Options

More work is expected to begin soon on Riviera Drive in Bellevue, the continuation of a significant sanitation improvement project that started last year.

Sanitation District 1 broke the project into three phases and completed the middle section, which had the biggest impact on traffic flow on the busy street that links Fairfield Avenue (KY Route 8) and Donnermeyer Drive. Last year, repairs to the middle section were estimated to cost between $1 and $1.5 million. 

Work is next scheduled for the northern section and SD1 expects to review bids for that portion of the project next Thursday. However, the southern end, closer to Donnermeyer, is in worse condition, so SD1 engineer Rob Schroeder consulted with SD1's board of director at Tuesday's meeting and explained that the pipe could possibly collapse soon. He said that the utility currently has $30,000 allocated to explore options and design work prior to putting the southern end of the project out to bid, but board members seemed indifferent as to the urgency. "We heard multiple times in the budget process that whether we do this now or it collapses, the cost would be the same," said board member Rick Wessels. "We're going to need to do it eventually, so whether we need to do it now (I'm not sure)."

The 50-year old deteriorated sanitary pipes along Riviera are surrounded by "inconsistent soil", Schroeder said, with a mix of concrete, bricks, and "all sorts of materials". Whether the full 1,355 feet of pipe would all be replaced prior to a collapse was not certain on Tuesday. SD1's board will look at the bid package being created by Schroeder and his team, and asked whether the bid package would be usable beyond the immediate time frame, in case the board decides to delay the southern project. "I don't see the technology changing that much in the next two years," he said. "I think it could have a multiple-year shelf life." Schroeder also said that he believes that SD1 would save money if it took a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach to the complete Riviera project.

Schroeder added that SD1 was fortunate that when the middle section collapsed, forcing an emergency bypass pumping system, that nearby utilities weren't affected.

So, what would happen if the pipe at the southern end were to collapse?

"It is always difficult to predict the exact consequences of a pipe collapse," said SD1 spokesperson Rachel Wells. "In the case of the pipe along Riviera Drive, a collapse would cause sanitary sewage to spill into the nearby creek. Also, other nearby utility lines and infrastructure could potentially be affected by a pipe failure.

"If the pipe along Riviera Drive collapsed, SD1 would respond immediately and set up bypass pumping to re-route the sewage flow and avoid interruption in sanitary sewer service."

The middle and southern sections were described as being in "very bad" condition. 

"We are not able to predict exactly when a pipe might collapse," Wells told The River City News. "We do know that the pipe along Riviera Drive is in a deteriorated condition and in need of repair. How long it takes to repair a pipe depends on the location and the extent of a collapse. It could take months to repair a collapse in the section of pipe discussed at (Tuesday's) meeting. Based on the feedback staff heard at (Tuesday's) board meeting, we will begin working toward designing the last phase of this project right away."

Bellevue City Administrator Keith Spoelker told The River City News that the middle section likely had the biggest impact on traffic patterns and that he trusts the SD1 project manager to fulfill the needs of the remaining work.

"Any work on the southern or northern end of the pipes will be outside the lanes of traffic for the most part. The biggest impact was last year and we worked to minimize that," Spoelker said. "These guys are doing their work. We'll let them do their work. Communication has been good."
 
Nearby residents and business owners, and others who traverse Riviera, will recall the foul odors that emanated from the collapse of the middle section. If another collapse were to happen, the temporary bypass pumping system would be installed again. "It is always difficult to predict the exact consequences of a pipe collapse," Wells said. "In the case of the pipe along Riviera Drive, a collapse would cause sanitary sewage to spill into the nearby creek. Also, other nearby utility lines and infrastructure could potentially be affected by a pipe failure.
 
"If the pipe along Riviera Drive collapsed, SD1 would respond immediately and set up "bypass pumping" to reroute the sewage flow and avoid interruptions in sanitary sewer service."
 
Other notes:
  • Latonia resident Katie Woodring spoke to the SD1 board about continuous flooding in her part of the neighborhood, after the recent heavy rains brought more unwanted sanitation and water into her basement. "We love Latonia. I call it a simple town, a nice town to live in. We're two blocks from Holy Cross where our children go to school. We don't want to move," she said. "Truth be known, who in the world are we going to sell our house to when we have seven to eight inches in our basement." Mayor Sherry Carran joined Woodring in calling for more evaluation of the flooding problem in Latonia.
  • Backups in basements on Jerome Court in Cold Spring will be addressed, after a landslide a few years back caused the sewer lateral to separate. Ralph Johnstone of SD1 said the issue had a "scream score" of 100, meaning it was very urgent. The utility will spend $165,000 to bring the system closer the homes on Jerome. 
  • SD1 will continue to work on a plan to decrease flooding on Greenbriar Avenue in Ft. Mitchell.  

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Riviera Drive prior to SD1's work in 2015 (RCN file)