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Pipe exploration will tell Water District which areas need most work

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By Kellie Parkin

You may have seen a small trailer in the streets of Cedar Key with the name Altair Environmental Group on the side, and wondered why it’s moving all around the island.

The trailer is home base to a crew that is going street to street, manhole to manhole, to inspect every sewer pipe in the downtown and surrounding areas looking for cracks and damage.

“We’re looking for holes in the side of the pipe, cracked pipe, anything that might cause a problem down the road,” said project superintendent Bill Kirk.

Last Friday crews used a specialized truck and equipment to clean the sewer mainlines, manholes and lift stations so that the remote controlled cameras could move freely through the system.

Kirk and his team are searching every pipe with their cameras, recording every step and documenting their findings onto DVD. They will also produce a written report.

“We only have to go so far into the easement,” Kirk explains as he points to one of two large monitors on his desk in the small trailer. He is looking at the camera view of a 4-inch lateral leading to one of the businesses on 3rd Street. “But I’m going a little further to make sure that we don’t run into any problems.”

Laterals, also called service connections, are the 4-inch or 6-inch pipes that connect businesses or homes to the approximately 8-inch mainlines which run under the streets.

Depending on what his team finds, a fix can often be done from his end, Kirk said. “Most of the time we’ll recommend fixing it from underground,” he said. This can be accomplished through patching or by way of a “pipe within a pipe,” he said. “If there’s damage, it doesn’t have to mean tearing up the road.”

 

The video testing is expected to continue for another two to three weeks. When that portion of the inspections is complete, Kirk and his team will begin the smoke testing. This is done by forcing safe, non-toxic smoke into the system, while technicians stand by to document any leaks.

Homes and business will be notified by flyers before smoke testing begins and a local phone number will be provided to call with any concerns. It will not be unusual to see smoke pouring out of buildings during the testing, he said. Visitors only in town for a day or two will be the ones caught by surprise the most, Kirk said. “We’ll do our best to get the word out, but there will be some that won’t hear about it.”

The testing is part of a joint cooperation between the city Community Redevelopment Agency and the Cedar Key Water and Sewer District to determine the areas of highest need for Phase II of the Streets and Utilities project.