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Carolina Beach Sewer Lift Station #1 Project Completed After Multiple Delays

The Town of Carolina Beach says the project to build a new sewer lift station downtown near the boardwalk is finally complete.

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH  - A project to replace an aging sewer lift station in downtown Carolina Beach was originally started in October of 2010. It's now complete and began operation in February of this year. It was originally planned for completion in July 2011. According to Gene Gurganious, Town Public Utilities Director, the project at 103 Raleigh Avenue was one of the most complicated the Town had faced in his many years due to unforeseen issues such as underground fuel storage tanks, pipes in unknown locations, an unknown old foundation and having to maintain operation of the old sewer lift station during the project.
Additionally, removing the old fuel tanks required soil testing as required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency adding additional time to the project.
Power lines and poles had to be relocated and a change order issued by the Town and contractor's error discovered earlier in the project also added to delays.
The sewer system in Carolina Beach is a common gravity system. At certain points in the system, a lift station is used to pump - or force - sewage through pipes to the treatment plant.
The $1.3 million dollar project replaced the old lift station which sends over half of the Town’s waste stream to the Town’s waste water treatment plant off Dow Road on the west side of the Island.
The original bid amount was $1,301,584. The final cost is approximately $1,455,638.
The old pump station had not been upgraded in at least the last 30 years. Approximately 60% of the Town’s sewage flows to the wet well located in the station.
The project took several years to plan and fund. The new station is designed to address issues of reliability, capacity and aesthetics. The old brick building was built at a time when other larger buildings surrounded it on most sides keeping it out of sight from tourists.
That's no longer the case as the adjacent lots have become vacant in the last decade.
With redevelopment of the downtown Boardwalk area anticipated in coming years in the Town's Master Development Plan, building a new structure with a more appealing exterior, quieter pumps and a new odor control system were important aspects of the project.
Also, outdated electrical equipment was replaced. The new lift station includes submersible pumps to replace the old suction lift pumps installed over 20 years ago. There's now an on site generator located within the building for emergency power.
The old station was rated for approximately 1,500 gallons per minute capacity. The new station can handle around 2,400 gallons per minute.
Other factors delayed the project. Someone working for the contractor - R.D. Braswell - took fill dirt to local residents and placed it in their yards along Cape Fear Blvd. The Town was notified and promptly informed the contractor to remove that dirt and return those properties to their original condition. The dirt had to be disposed of or treated properly.
Then the contractor installed a portion of the project out of alignment and had to redo a major portion of the work.
In 2011, Town Manager Tim Owens explained the delays and added the, "Wet well was constructed incorrectly on the lot. Upon trying to correct this, they broke several sections and had to recast" the concrete container. The wet well is what contains the sewage for pumping to the treatment plant.
Owens said the site was very tight with limited mobility and explained in November 2011, "Also, the contractor to date, while doing a good job, is moving slower than anticipated with construction." He said the project was on budget but not on-schedule and anticipated a new completion date sometime after January 1st, 2012. That date was eventually in February 2012.
Back in August 2011, another unforeseen issue popped up and caused a 72,000 estimated sewer discharge.
The Town issued a notice on Friday August 12, saying they had a sewer discharge of untreated wastewater from a ruptured force main at the lift station.  The discharge occurred on August 11, 2011. The untreated wastewater spilled into drainage lines leading to Carolina Beach Lake and Myrtle Grove Sound at the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin. The discharge resulted in a minor fish kill of juvenile fish and minnows in the canal going to Carolina Beach Lake.
According to Gene Gurganious - Director of the Town's Public Utilities Department - the problem occurred due to an old line installed in the early 1970's and later capped and left in place.
Gurganious said while the contractor was working, the old five-foot section of 8" inch line coming out of the old station had a "t-cap" on the end. Everyone thought the line was abandoned, but it turns out the line was still under pressure. When dirt was removed from around the old pipe, the t-cap came off and sewage began to discharge. He said luckily the contractor already had pumps in place to bypass the lift station during work on the project. Those pumps were immediately used to pump the wastewater from the hole back into the lift station and into a nearby sewer manhole leading to the treatment plant.
Gurganious said the situation could have been much worse, but the pumps were put into action quickly and sand bags were put around nearby drainage culverts to keep water from draining to the lake and marina. Gurganious said another pump was taken to the Carolina Beach Lake to capture any discharge draining through underground pipes to the lake. Gurganious said some minnows and smaller fish died as a result.
On Tuesday May 15, Gurganious said the lift station is fully complete with new landscaping in place. He also hopes the new odor control system will make a big improvement in the downtown area. Canal Drive has been repaved. A portion of Raleigh Avenue remains a gravel road for the time being.