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County awaiting engineers’ report on pipe problem
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County awaiting engineers’ report on pipe problem

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While a headline-making sewage spill that occurred in Goochland in late July was quickly addressed and contained, county leaders continue to work on a plan to avoid any such incidents in the future.

The July 27 incident, which made headlines across the region and led to a health advisory being issued for all water activities between Goochland and Richmond, involved the rupture of a 48-inch force main pipe coming from the Eastern Goochland Pump Station at 12320 Patterson Ave. The break was discovered about three hours after it occurred, but not before around 300,000 gallons of raw sewage bound for treatment plants in Henrico and Richmond was spilled directly into Tuckahoe Creek.

With area residents and visitors barred from enjoying the water, the county was left to clean up the mess and try to figure out what had gone wrong.

According to acting Goochland County Administrator Manuel Alvarez Jr., the county has seen smaller ruptures in the past, likely owing to the fact that the section of pipe in question runs through rocky terrain that may lead to added stress.

Alvarez said the county is currently awaiting a preliminary engineering report from Dewberry Engineers, the firm retained by the county to address the issue, that should offer a path forward. That proposal is expected in January.

Alvarez said one possible solution could include inserting a sleeve inside the existing pipe. Replacing the pipe could also be a possibility.

Either way, the solution will likely be expensive said Alvarez, offering a figure between $8 and $9 million.

“We’re hoping it’s less, but we’ll have to see,” he noted. “It’s definitely not a drop in the bucket.”

The good news, Alvarez said, is that he has no reason to believe that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will impose any civil penalty on the county for contamination of the waterway.

In a Sept. 24 letter to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Goochland County Director of Public Utilities Matt Longshore outlined the steps the county took to contain and clean up the spill in the immediate aftermath of the rupture, and asked that the department take into consideration the county’s swift response and ongoing mitigation efforts when deciding whether to impose a penalty.

Reached by phone on Monday, Longshore described the pipe failure as quite unexpected, particularly since the typical life-span of that type of pipe is around 50 years.

Longshore said the pipe in question is only around 20 years old.

“We definitely don’t expect a 20-year old pipe to leak like that,” Longshore said. “It is disappointing, but the reality is that we are going forward with a plan to find a permanent fix so that we don’t have to deal with something like this again in the future.”

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