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Steubenville sewer project uncovers the past

COLLAPSED LINE — Crews repairing collapsed sewer line on Sixth Street have had more than their share of construction surprises, Utilities Director Chuck Murphy said. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — So far, Utilities Director Church Murphy said crews repairing the collapsed Sixth Street sewer line have found the remnants of an old rail line, a road, a 6-inch water line and an AT&T underground vault, none of which were on any of the city’s maps.

They’ve also had to contend with known water lines, two “massive” AEP power poles and the tangle of traffic signals at the intersection of the state Route 7 off ramp, Fourth and Sixth streets and Lincoln Avenue.

“This one has been fraught with problems,” Murphy said. “It’s been a fun one, especially considering how tight we are between the off ramp and the hillside for the railroad tracks up above.

“And we had to go in and put in a bypass pump so we could pump sewage from the upstream manhole by Lincoln Avenue all the way to the manhole by (state) Route 7,” he added. “We had to create what amounts to a bypass, using a pump.”

Crews are installing a 15-inch sewer line, putting in 145 feet of new pipe between the two existing manholes and adding a third manhole. The work is being done by James White Construction Co., and Murphy said they’re already “probably a little more than half done” with the repairs.

“I’m figuring another week, week- and-a-half, weather depending,” he said. “Without the funding that council passed with that rate increase (last year), this really wouldn’t be possible. We wouldn’t even be able to respond to emergencies like this. We’re using money wisely to try and get things taken care of.”

Murphy said James White’s bid came in at $130,000, “but we’ll probably go a little over” primarily because of all the unknowns the crews have encountered.

“That surprise ATT vault that nobody knew was there, it wasn’t marked. It dates back to like the 1930s,” he said. “It had pretty serious cabling running through it, it was a pretty good-sized concrete vault.

“Fortunately, AT&T worked with us to get things nailed down to where they could eliminate it — otherwise, we couldn’t have run the new line, based on the planned routing for it.”

He said there was no way to know that vault was there, nor could they have known they’d find the long-forgotten remnants of an old road and a rail line.

“You never want to say never,” he said. “When you’re digging, especially when you’re digging to the depth we are in this area, there were old houses, things of that nature so you might run into an old foundation or an old AT&T vault. When you’re digging that far below ground, you’d don’t know what you’re going to get. You can do all the due diligence you want, but you’re still going to have surprises from time-to-time.”

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