By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – The leak forcing raw sewage to bubble up to the surface of Wellington Avenue and onto neighboring streets in Ventnor Heights will take weeks to repair, although stopping the leak could be completed over the next seven days, Atlantic County Utilities Authority President Richard S. Dovey said Monday.
ACUA’s emergency contractor Lafayette Utilities is preparing the site for the installation of a bypass pipe, which will stop the leak while repairs are made to the existing 27-inch sewer force main.
According to an update from the ACUA, the required parts have been ordered and will be arriving on site over the next few days. Lafayette is identifying two locations where excavation will be done to attach the bypass line on either side of the leak. When piping arrives onsite, it will be fused together and when the pipe taps are delivered and excavation is completed, the bypass can be put into place.
While the bypass will stop the release of wastewater, the actual repair work is anticipated to take several weeks. Detours will remain in place during the repairs.
A six-block stretch of Wellington Avenue between Dorset and Somerset avenue is closed to traffic indefinitely. Police are detouring traffic to side streets. The Office of Emergency Management announced today that access to Ventnor Heights over the Dorset Avenue bridge will be prohibited until the roadway can be reopened. Residents are advised to access the Ventnor Heights area from Atlantic City’s West End Avenue, taking the detour to get to Dorset Avenue.
Dovey said the contractor believes the break is in a joint in a slip line that was installed in 1994, which brings wastewater from Downbeach communities to the ACUA’s processing plant in Atlantic City.
Not all of the effluent generated by the Downbeach communities of Ventnor, Margate and Longport is coming out of the pipe, he said.
“We must install the bypass pipe, which will take six or seven days. During that time the leak will continue,” he said.
Residents are advised to conserve water to minimize the amount of wastewater that would be conveyed through the area where the leak is located.
The wastewater that came to the surface was draining into the storm drains, but with today’s heavy rain and high tides, there’s nowhere for the water to go, other than onto the roadway and then into the bay.
Turning off the pump station that forces sewage into Atlantic City is not an option, he said. The contractor tried a temporary fix by pumping wastewater into the city’s old wastewater line, but that caused a backup into one residential property, so that temporary fix was abandoned.
Once the bypass line is in place, the ACUA will install a slip line, which will take three to four weeks to complete.
“After that, it’s cleanup and restoration,” Dovey said. “No sense doing it now, if it’s going to keep leaking.”
There is no immediate health risk, he said. The drinking water supply is on a separate line and therefore the safety of drinking water has not been compromised.
However, Dovey advised residents to avoid contact with the wastewater and move their cars. Do not walk, bike or drive through the wastewater, he said.
“It won’t kill you, but it’s wastewater,” he said.
After the work is completed, affected lawns will be treated with lime, he said.
Dovey said the leak at Bader Field two years ago was much worse, but because it was in a remote area, no one had to experience it.
The area of Wellington Avenue, which brings travelers to Ventnor City from Route 40/322, was built on marshland. Coupled with increased flooding events, it is one of the “least stable” areas on the island, Dovey said.
ACUA and the Health Department will be conducting water sampling to determine water quality in the bay.
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