“We are ahead of other municipalities because before we got the state revolving loan monies, we spent millions of dollars of our own” assessing the system and making needed repairs, said Director of Public Works Don Sopak.
In July 2016, the city’s Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Survey (SSES) was completed and included prioritized recommendations for specific repairs and rehabilitation of the defects that were found, according to a city of Gulfport memorandum dated November 21. For this phase one study, only part of the system was researched with video cameras, said Sopak.
In the following months, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) reviewed loan applications for sewer repairs from cities throughout the state, including Gulfport.
“This is a statewide problem,” said Sopak.
Locally, the FDEP required Gulfport to televise their entire system in order to continue to qualify for low-interest loans, he said.
At the November 21 council meeting, Sopak provided council members with a presentation that summarized where the city is now regarding sewer assessment and construction repairs.
On April 4, council approved a state revolving fund loan for $2,518,703, said Sopak. Then, on May 2, council approved a contract with Cardno for management and administration of the loan along with performing the remaining closed circuit television inspections that need to be done on 123,000 linear feet of pipeline. Filming began on May 20.
The construction portion of phase one will begin on December 4. Residents in affected areas will be notified with door hangers. Issues identified as priority one repairs as a result of the assessment will be addressed over the next several years, said Sopak. The total time allotted for phase one is five years.
Repairs will range from digging a simple hole straight down to fix a short length of cracked pipe to being as complex as tearing up a length of roadway to replace long lengths of pipe, said Sopak.
For years six through 25 during phase two, the city will conduct further assessments to identify and prioritize additional repairs, he said.
Residential Lateral Sewer Pipes Are Also an Issue
As part of what is called a consent order that is administered by the FDEP, Gulfport and other affected municipalities that have had documented sewer spills must invest monies in approved programs that are designed to protect the environment by reducing energy or saving water, said Sopak.
During the SSES assessment in 2016, results showed that many sewer lines on private property have issues relating to cracks, tree root infiltration that causes leaks or complete collapses due to the age and type of pipe in use, he said.
Gulfport plans to submit a proposal to the DFEP that details a reimbursement program for residential lateral sewer pipe assessment and repair or replacement, said Sopak. The city council will review it in the early spring of 2018 before the documentation heads to the state agency for their review in April.
If approved, homeowners will be able to make arrangements with city-approved plumbers who will conduct a pipe assessment. Afterward, if needed, an estimate of repairs or replacement will be created.
Funding to solve faulty residential lateral sewer pipe issues can cost from $2,000 to $6,000 depending on variables like lot size and where the lines are located, said Tom Nicholls, superintendent of Gulfport’s Public Works department.
Residents would pay first then apply to the city for reimbursement, said Sopak.
If the program is approved, “We don’t know how much we’re going to reimburse homeowners but we have $127,500 in the budget this year to do that,” said Sopak. “If it’s successful, then we might budget more money in the following years.”
Sopak is retiring after serving for over 26 years with the city on Friday, December 1, and Nicholls will become the new Director of Public Works beginning on Monday, December 4.
For more information about the phase one plan and to review detailed city maps, click here.