Sewer project will stretch into 2018

Photo Provided Contractors with Edgco Inc. work in the 1200 block of Main Street in downtown Wheeling on Friday to complete the $755,000 stormwater separation project that began early this year.

WHEELING — After nearly one year of work, contractors building the $755,000 stormwater separation through Main Street have advanced from Wheeling Creek to the 1200 block, but they still must reach the south end of The Health Plan headquarters building to finish the project.

“Some time next year,” Wheeling Engineering Specialist Mike Stahl said Friday when asked when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-mandated project would be complete.

City Councilman Dave Palmer said he is not sure what is taking so long, but Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday said she understands the dilemma city Water Pollution Control workers and contractors with Edgco Inc. face with so much old infrastructure under the street.

“My understanding is there are quite a few locations where they are discovering unknown infrastructure,” Scatterday, an architect by trade, said. “Some of these pipes were put in the ground over 100 years ago.”

The original estimated completion date for the project was August, but officials have faced multiple delays along the way. Under Main Street, they have so far encountered abandoned telephone lines, natural gas lines, street car rails, and old sewer lines.

“We just found another one from 1885,” Stahl said Friday. “It’s just amazing what has been left down in there over the years.”

During the last 40 years or so, many former downtown Wheeling buildings have been removed. For example, the spaces now occupied by the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center and WesBanco Arena were once home to multiple smaller buildings. These buildings likely had individual utility lines running to them.

Although the buildings were torn down, the underground utility lines remained in place. The abandoned lines are often directly next to active utility lines, compounding the problem workers face.

“I know they have run into issues and problems with the old infrastructure — and I’m no expert in laying pipe,” Palmer said. “I’m just not sure why it is taking this long.”

The work began at Wheeling Creek with snow on the ground in early 2017. By May, contractors progressed to the area of Main Street directly in front of the intermodal garage. Throughout the summer, contractors slowly progressed to the intersection of 14th Street, a street which remained closed for several weeks. At one point, the project stopped to allow Edgco to build “custom-made manholes” to avoid an accident with the active utility lines.

After finally advancing beyond 14th Street, stopped just north of the intersection of 14th Street for a few weeks. Work in the immediate area led to a rupture of a 3-inch water line in late summer.

For several weeks, contractors have remained positioned in the 1200 block of Main Street.

“It will be worth it in the end. Anytime we are able to accomplish a separation of the stormwater and the sanitary lines, it is worth it,” Scatterday said. “The ultimate plan is to replace all combined stormwater and sewer separation projects.”

Once finished, stormwater from Main Street will flow into the new line to head directly to Wheeling Creek. Presently, this rainwater goes to the Water Pollution Control Plant in Center Wheeling, which Public Works Director Russell Jebbia said results in extra work, and therefore additional costs, for the sewage plant.

“The work being done is sized to accommodate The Health Plan and possible future downtown development,” Vice Mayor Chad Thalman added. “There is no plan at this time to do a similar project on Market Street.”