Sewer Break on Winthrop Avenue Will Be Costly, Inconvenient

City leaders are bracing for a huge, unexpected expense and warning residents on Winthrop Avenue in the Immaculate Conception (IC) area that inconvenient times are coming.

Many residents of that area, they said, may not even be able to park at their homes during parts of the extended work that is to come.

The source of the problem is a compromised sewer main that lies some 20 feet below Winthrop Avenue next to the McMackin Park. About two weeks ago, on Sept. 1, the sewer pipe failed and City crews from the Department of Public Works (DPW) had to move in to take emergency measures.

For the past two weeks, crews have been running a pump to bypass the crumbled sewer pipe, but that has grown expensive with overtime costs, police details and equipment.

On Monday night, City Councillors heard a short presentation from Mayor Dan Rizzo and called for a Public Hearing to decide whether or not to authorize an unspecified amount of money for short term borrowing.

The cost is expected to be extraordinary, but the problem is so new that there are not yet any reliable estimates. An estimate is expected at the Public Hearing on Sept. 23.

“Money that has already been approved for extensive sewer repairs will ultimately be the money that will be used to pay for this,” said Rizzo. “The problem is getting the immediate funding to fix the problem. It will fall under the guise of some emergency short term borrowing. It is critical we go forward with this action and hopefully with as little disruption to the neighbors as possible.”

The fix, if approved, will likely begin in October, and the project is pegged at lasting three months – well into the winter.

“It’s 20 feet below the ground so you can imagine it’s going to be quite a job,” said the mayor. “Unfortunately, it will take a long time. It was something that had to be done eventually, but we weren’t expecting to do it on an emergency basis.”

Rizzo and Ward 1 Councillor Richard Penta said they plan to have a neighborhood meeting in the coming weeks to explain the matter more thoroughly – a meeting that will likely take place at IC.

One of the complicating factors is that there are two, large MWRA water mains above the sewer pipe – as well as a gas line and other utilities. Moving those to get to the pipe will be time consuming and costly.

The sewer pipe, according to City consultants, is located on Winthrop Avenue, but serves nearly 10 percent of the city’s homes.

“It drains nearly 400 acres and about 10 percent of the City’s areas,” said Bob Button of CDM Smith. “It’s a local problem with widespread implications for the whole city.”

Penta said neighbors would likely have their lives turned upside down, but the alternative is raw sewage in basements.

“They’re talking about working 16 hours a day with road shutdowns and re-routing of traffic and bus lines,” he said. “There might be times when residents can’t park at their homes when work is being done. The alternative is to have raw sewage in peoples’ basements and no one wants to see that. Every neighbor would be affected clear up to Broadway.”

City officials said they would send out reverse 9-1-1 calls to those affected and would schedule a meeting soon. The Public Hearing next Monday, Sept. 23, would also yield more information.

“The key here is going to be patience,” said Councillor Tony Zambuto. “From a construction point of view, you probably couldn’t have any worse circumstance with all the pipes on top of this for this repair.”

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