Port Townsend City Council approves emergency repairs

Broken sewer line required quick action

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has approved $150,000 to cover the cost of repairing a broken sewer main over the holidays and required emergency action by city staff.

Final repairs to a broken sewer main discovered on Dec. 27 were recently completed, Port Townsend Public Works Director Steve King told the council Tuesday, but an emergency declaration was needed to approve the funds spent outside the city’s typical procurement process.

Council members unanimously approved an emergency declaration allowing city staff to execute any paperwork related to repairing the pipe.

King’s memo to the city noted that the city’s 2022 water capital budget had sufficient funds to cover the project due to delays in other projects, but that a supplemental budget may be needed in for the first fiscal quarter of 2023.

Amid coastal flooding following a week of fluctuating weather, city crews discovered a broken sewer line on a portion of Water Street near Gaines Street, King said, and while crews were able to bypass the break using pumps, the line needed to be repaired immediately.

“Everything from the ferry terminal to uptown gets pumped all the way back to Water Street,” King said. “This one we don’t have a lot of grace. If something goes wrong, things don’t go well, quickly.”

The city hired Seton Construction and was able to procure 120 feet of pipe from Tacoma, King said, and repairs on the breakage were recently completed. Portions of Water Street and Gaines Street near the breakage have been closed since Dec. 27, when city crews discovered a broken sewer main there. The area will have to be repaved.

The cause of the break still isn’t entirely known, King said, but crews removed a considerable amount of debris and found that portions of the pipe — installed in 1966 and made of asbestos concrete — were deteriorated.

King said the deterioration in the pipe made him suspect that the blockage had caused the buildup of hydrogen sulfide gas, which eroded the concrete.

“Unfortunately, it makes me wonder about what the rest of the (asbestos concrete) pipe from 1966 looks like from there to the ferry terminal,” King said.

The danger from asbestos — a fire-retardant material widely used throughout the 20th Century but now known to cause cancer — is mostly airborne, King said. Much of the collapsed pipe was vacuumed out of the breakage.

State grants

Also Tuesday, council members approved of grant agreements with the state Department of Transportation (DOT) for improvements to city streets. The grants required a combined local match of $164,500 and will go toward improvements at the intersection of Sims Way and Kearney Street; pavement preservation on Tyler Street and bike and pedestrian paths on Discovery Road.

Funding for the projects is more than 80 percent funded by DOT but did require local match dollars, which council members unanimously approved for each project.

The Tyler Street overlay project — pavement preservation at the site of the city’s Saturday farmers market — requires a local match of $75,000 for a grant of $379,354.

The Discovery Road bicycle and pedestrian project, which will improve bike lanes near the intersections of Sheridan Streets and 19th Avenue, requires a $15,000 local match for a total grant of $233,000.

The most expensive project — $552,400 for improvements at Kearney Street to accompany a DOT roundabout project there — requires a smaller match of 13.5 percent, or $74,500 from the city to complete.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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