Road closure to allow paving after sewer line break

PORT TOWNSEND — Water Street between Gaines Street and Sims Way will be temporarily closed Mondays and Tuesdays for paving work.

The work is the latest step in repairing a sewer line that failed on December 27 near the intersection of Water Street and Gaines Street.

City crews saw water coming up through one of the maintenance holes on Water Street, public works director Steve King said.

By 1 p.m. that day they had installed pumps to bypass the disruption before the sewage overflow leaked into the bay.

The sewer line, which serves all and most of downtown downtown, was emergency repaired, with Seton Construction repairing about 120 feet of pipe, King said.

“Now, weather permitting, the final step in completing this project is to pave the road,” City Manager John Mauro said in a press release.

On January 3, Port Townsend City Council approved $150,000 to help cover the cost of repairing the sewer line over the holiday period.

According to King, the crews removed a significant amount of debris that was likely pushed into the drainage system by the King Tide flooding that had hit the area the day before. They found that parts of the pipe, which was installed in 1966 and was made of asbestos concrete, were damaged.

King said that wastewater can produce hydrogen sulfide gas, which when combined with moisture can turn into sulfuric acid, which eats away at concrete.

“It’s particularly harmful to concrete pipes and asbestos concrete pipes,” King said Friday.

King consulted with RH2 Engineering Inc. of Bothell, who have worked with towns in Kitsap County that were experiencing the same issue.

“Now that we know the cause, we’re going to hire a company that specializes in video inspection of these pipelines,” King said of the sewer line that runs from Water Street to the ferry terminal.

The danger from asbestos — a fire-retardant material that was widely used in the 20th century but is now known to cause cancer — is primarily airborne, King said.

Much of the collapsed pipe was sucked out of the fracture.

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