With a massive pipe found leaking raw sewage at the Cullman wastewater treatment plant, city officials have approved emergency repairs to install a new pipe at the facility.
The repair plan calls for a new, 24-inch pipe to be installed, at an estimated total cost of $344,000, not including at least $50,000 that will have to be spent to rent a back-up pump to keep the sewer system running normally in the meantime. Bids will be sought immediately.
The new pipe will replace a 20-inch force main running from the north pump station underneath the main digester to the plant’s headworks. Employees at the plant just discovered the leak, which is running under the digester and leaking out from the digester slab.
Officials say the force main could potentially rupture — discharging mass amounts of raw sewage — at any time, which prompted the city council to approve emergency repairs at a special called meeting this week.
“It could impact the environment, and it’s something we have to do now, to get it back in working order,” council member Johnny Cook said.
The old pipe has to be replaced because it currently runs 35-feet underground — too deep to effectively repair within a manageable budget.
The council briefly considered doing the project in-house, but president Garlan Gudger, Jr. worried the resources required could affect the day-to-day operations of the city.
“I’m just not sure we can do this ourselves without suspending services, because that’s always the problem with projects this size,” he said.
Until the pipe is replaced, the treatment plant is using a bypass system to go around the damaged area, and plant manager Jeff Adams said that measure has prevented any significant spill.
“We’re now bypassing approximately three-fourths of a million gallons in 24 hours,“ Adams said. “Obviously, if we don’t get it repaired very quickly, it could become a public health issue and we could be fined.”
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.