Wilmington, NC – Bad, but not as bad as they'd feared, is the assessment of Public Utilities Director Hugh Caldwell after repair crews got a look at the break which opened up in the Northeast Interceptor sewer Sunday.
However, crews working early in the morning were unable to finalize their repairs, leaving raw sewage still leaking into a tributary of Hewlett's Creek.
The city hopes to complete repairs early Tuesday morning, although Caldwell says that's dependent on the forecasted rainy weather holding off.
Pine Grove Drive will remain closed all of Monday, although residents are allowed in and out of affected neighborhoods.
What crews unearthed early Monday was a three-inch-wide hole in a previously patched section of the pipe. Caldwell says the city has no record of the earlier repair.
"It looked like they had put a repair band on it," Caldwell said, "but had somehow damaged it, either in installing it, or after it was installed. Then they had tried to do a repair to the repair, and that failed on Sunday morning."
Caldwell said he had no answer why the repair, which the city estimates happened early in the 22-year-old sewer lines' life, wasn't documented.
At least one other past spill has occurred on a repaired section of the pipe.
A recent assessment of the Northeast Interceptor did check known repairs. Because this section of the pipe is a force main, engineers are unable to send
The City Council will consider next month whether to build a back-up to the troubled sewer line. The lack of an alternative meant repair crews had to wait 18 hours, to the late-night period of lowest-flow, to begin their work.
Although sewage gushed out of the pipe yesterday, the last-night's patch has substantially cut the amount of wastewater being lost in the creek. Pumper trucks are currently removing water from Hewlett's Creek in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the spill.
Downtown Wilmington suffered an unrelated break in a water main Monday morning, when the process of cutting off water to allow repairs to a pipe at Second Street ruptured a line at Front and Red Cross.
As of 2pm, repair crews were waiting for utility companies to identify their lines in the area before beginning repairs. The break shut down Front from Walnut to Campbell and Red Cross from Second to Nutt Streets.