Winthrop Avenue Sewer Pipe Project Has Doubled in Cost

The Winthrop Avenue sewer pipe replacement project has doubled in cost over the last several months, and will end up being more than $700,000 over original estimates, according to DPW Director Don Goodwin.

Goodwin told the Council on Monday that the complex replacement project got more complicated as things went on, especially with the MWRA – which ordered the City to take on more costs by moving water pipes that, inexplicably, were located above the collapsed sewer pipe.

“The project has cost us double what we anticipated initially mostly because of what the MWRA has required,” he told the Council. “They actually made us take their two water mains up and out of the ground and put them temporarily on the sidewalk…It’s been an ugly project for us and the engineers.”

Goodwin said the project is running at $1.6 million right now, which is far and above the $900,000 estimates that came last September when the collapse was discovered. Much of those costs had to do with the complexities of navigating in a 30-foot trench, as well as dealing with the bureaucracies of the state government. However, a substantial amount of money was spent on police and DPW details to watch the temporary machinery while the project was mostly at a standstill from September through January. During that time period, police and DPW details totaled more than $400,000.

The crux of the problem, Goodwin said, is that the sewer pipe lies underneath the water mains – which he said should never have been allowed many years ago.

“The question that begs to be answered is why they allowed them to put these two MWRA transmission mains above the sewer line when the other side of the street is free and clear,” he said. “I would suggest that if we allowed them to put the mains in there pre-1970s, then we must have approved it. It makes no sense, but it’s what we have to deal with…We were looking initially at this being done by Thanksgiving. When they ran into the issue of the transmission lines, it became a very, very severe problem.”

One piece of good news is that the project is on schedule now and will likely be done prior to the start of the Little League season – given that the repair project is currently blocking access to McMackin Field.

“By April 9, they expect to have this all completed,” said Goodwin.

The schedule is as follows:

•March 10 to March 17 – remove and replace 18-inch sewer line

•March 18 – Shutdown sewer bypass pumps

•March 19 to March 27 – relay 24-inch water main (includes pressure and chlorination)

•March 28 to April 7 – relay 16-inch water main (includes pressure test and chlorination)

•April 8 to April 9 – street paving and restoration

•April 9 – completion

The City was able to secure a $2 million loan from the state’s Emergency Revolving Loan Fund administered by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to pay for the project. However, no one expected to use the full amount of the borrowing. That, however, looks to be the case now. The loan will be repaid by ratepayers through the Water & Sewer Enterprise Fund.

Council President Tony Zambuto said the costs are a bitter pill to swallow, but something that was hard to avoid in such a difficult repair.

“This is not an easy project,” he said. “The hole is 30 feet deep. Anyone who has done utility work knows…when you’re down 30 feet in a trench, then it’s not an easy job. It’s an astronomical task to do this work…This is what it was – an emergency project.”

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