Clay pipe caved in; affecting homes on Gresham, Hartwell streets

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

A clogged sewer line on the city's north side is forcing city crews to begin an ambitious month-long project to bypass the line.

Mario Garza, the director of public works for the City of Alice, said Wednesday the problem started several months ago with a sewer line that services houses on Gresham and Hartwell streets.

The area affected includes approximately 25 houses on the north side of Hartwell Street and the south side of Gresham Street.

Garza said the problem began when a 6-inch clay sewer line running under an easement behind the homes apparently partially caved in.

"That clay pipe is probably 40 to 50 years old," Garza said. "Clay hasn't been used in many years, because clay pipe cracks under soil movement."

In addition to the sewer line, which is buried 10 feet deep, the easement also contains a water line and a gas line, as well as several power lines, Garza said.

Those factors combined prevent the city from removing and replacing the line, which led city engineers to decide to install two new lines to bypass the clogged line.

Those two lines, which will be made of eight-inch PVC pipe, will be installed in front of the affected homes, in a city easement between the street curb and the houses.

Garza said that process, which is expected to take 30 days, will require the city crews to dig up significant portions of the area in front of those residents' homes.

"There's a small piece of sidewalk, there's concrete driveways we're going to have to break up and replace. There's yard we're going to have to dig up," Garza said. "After it's done, we're going to replace the concrete driveways and dress up the city right of way with topsoil. It obviously will not be in perfect condition, but it will be the best we can make it."

The project, which will include hiring a plumbing contractor to reroute the sewer connections from the back of the homes to the front, is expected to cost the city $30,000, Garza said.

In the next few days, city crews will be going door-to-door in the neighborhood to hand out flyers and answer residents' questions about the project, Garza said.

Pascual Martinez, who lives in a home on Gresham Street, said he and his wife spoke with city personnel and understood the need for the project.

"We know how it is, and as long as they take care of it we don't have a problem," Martinez said. "Any kind of improvements, you're going to have an inconvenience, but as long as it's for the better, we're for it."

Nita Hobbs, who lives on Hartwell, said she has heard strange sounds in her sewer pipes, but had not yet been informed of the planned work.

"I have heard some gurgling," Hobbs said. "But I haven't heard anything (from the city) yet."

Hobbs said she was not looking forward to the "mess" the city crews would make of her yard, but she did not have a problem with the project.

"If it helps, there's not anything we can do," Hobbs said.

Garza encouraged any residents with questions about the project to contact the Public Works Department at 668-7270, or the Engineering Department at 668-7280, and asked for the public's patience while the crews worked to fix the problem.

"They're going to be inconvenienced for awhile," Garza said. "We ask that they please bear with us during this time."