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Sugar Creek sewer project nearly finished

Chip Ellis
A motorist splashes through one of many potholes along Sugar Creek Drive, where contractors have been installing new sewer lines all year as part of the Kanawha Two-Mile Project. The work could wrap up by Thanksgiving.
Chip Ellis Contractors carry a load of gravel in an endloader to patch potholes along Sugar Creek Drive after recent heavy rains.
Chip Ellis Residents of Sugar Creek Drive will end up with a brand new road, like recently paved Lilly Drive, says Charleston Sanitary Board General Manager Larry Roller.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For residents of Sugar Creek Drive and its side hollows, 2012 has been a year to forget -- and maybe curse. Dust when it's dry, mud when it's wet, frustrating delays, and potholes.

"I sympathize," said Mayor Danny Jones. "If this was going on where I live I wouldn't be happy. But we've got to do this."

Officials at the Charleston Sanitary Board say the hassles are simply the price of modernizing the sewer system. The good news is the job of moving sewer lines out of Kanawha Two-Mile creek is nearly complete.

"I think they'll be substantially wrapped up by Thanksgiving," said Larry Roller, general manager of the sanitary board. "They may return next spring."

Contractors with J.F. Allen Co., who have torn up Sugar Creek Drive to install new sewer lines beneath the road, are waiting to finish the installation before they lay down a final coat of asphalt, Roller said.

That makes it tough on drivers who have to dodge the potholes on a road barely two lanes wide, or get stuck behind the contractors.

"They're used to flying down the hollow," Roller said. "Now they have to stop and wait. The contractors are required to maintain traffic, but they're allowed to interrupt traffic for up to 15 minutes. It probably runs longer sometimes."

And unlike Chandler Drive, also part of the Kanawha Two-Mile project, Sugar Creek is a dead-end road.

"The difference on Chandler Drive, there's two ways in and out. You don't have that luxury on Sugar Creek."

City Councilman Bill Kirk, who lives just off Sugar Creek, complained to city officials about the inconvenience last summer.

Roller said there's not a lot he can do. He has engineers on the job, making sure J.F. Allen follows its contract. When potholes get big, like last week after heavy weekend rain, the company fills them with gravel.

"I've talked to Greg Hadjis, the president, a number of times about the project. He has a vice president who keep me advised from time to time about issues."

J.F. Allen is one of three contractors the sanitary board hired for the massive Kanawha Two-Mile project. The agency has previously done smaller projects, like on lower Porter Road and Twilight Drive, and replaced pumping stations under a consent agreement with state and federal regulators to fix its outdated sewage collection system.

"This is an element of our long-term contract plan filed with the DEP in 2005," Roller said. "This is the first major step in that plan, a $250 process."

The sewer rehabilitation is driven by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection, Jones said.

"It's going to go on all over the town, all over the county and all over the country," he said. "We're going to have to continue to do other projects, long after I'm gone. We deal with what we have to deal with. It will be a better infrastructure out there.

The $27 million Kanawha Two-Mile Project is funded by a low-interest loan the state Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council approved two years ago with a little arm-twisting by Jones.

"We're rehabilitating 19 miles of 4-inch up to 24-inch pipelines," Roller said. "Primarily what we're doing is getting the lines out of the creek."

Besides J.F. Allen, Pipe Plus has been working on Chandler Drive and Rover Construction along W.Va. 21 and in North Charleston. The work began in January.

"The contract was about one year for each [contractor]," Roller said. "At least one contractor has asked for an extension. J.F. Allen hasn't, but that doesn't mean they won't."

Before each project, the sanitary board has held public meetings to warn neighbors about possible inconveniences.

"We had community meetings on Sugar Creek," Roller said. They publicized in advance, ran full-page newspaper ads. "One man showed up for the meeting, and his interest was unrelated to the project.

"Contrast that to Twilight, where we had many people show up, and to South Ruffner, where we had many." Contractors are scheduled to start on a similar project in South Ruffner early next year.

"The sewer line's been there 50 to 60 years and is well past its useful life," Roller said. "There probably hasn't been any major work done in all that time.

"These are tough jobs. Narrow roads. Sugar Creek is by far the most challenging project. It's very narrow. You have a creek that follows the road. You have rock you have to drill through. You can't use a jackhammer because of the homes.

"They're not done yet," Roller said. "They're focusing on getting the pipe in. They'll have a new road. It will be an improvement."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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