Over the past few weeks, Middletown has been busy with a sewer improvement project — in Newport.
As part of the community’s ongoing sewer agreement with the City, the Town is responsible for fixing and maintaining the force main that runs underground along most of Memorial Boulevard.
Town Engineer Warren Hall said the pipe and temporary paving work is expected to be wrapped up by the last week in May, with a final coat of pavement being put down this fall.
“Keeping our sewer system operating properly is of the highest priority for our Public Works operations,” Hall said. “Through diligence, planning and funding, we keep our system operating at its best.”
Like most sewer and related infrastructure work, few want to hear — or even know — about such projects. That is until something breaks and the toilet, water or other services aren’t working properly.
The Town ran into just such an issue in July 2006, when a section of the force main by Red Cross Avenue in Newport let go, spilling more than a million gallons of partially treated sewage into Easton’s Bay.
Ultimately, the Town Council opted to replace the entire force main from the Town’s sewer pump station on Wave Avenue to the Bellevue Avenue area at the time.
Since then, the Town has made proactive maintenance and repairs of the force main — and the rest of the sewer system — a top priority.
The way the Middletown sewer system is designed, about 90 percent of the effluent from homes and businesses gets routed through the Wave Avenue pump station. There, heavy duty pumps push the wastewater up the hill on Memorial Boulevard on its way for treatment at Newport’s plant on Connell Highway. Stormwater from rains are handled by a separate system in Middletown.
The town engineer Hall said this portion of the project is replacing the remainder of the force main along Memorial Boulevard that Middletown is responsible for.
All told, Hall said about 1,660 linear feet of the pipe will be slip lined. Through that process, a sock-like material is pulled through the existing line and adheres to the walls after being superheated by steam. The Town has used this technique across the community to dramatically reduce costs and save existing lines, which can have their useful life extended 50 years or more.
Besides the heavy construction equipment and regular activity along the beautiful thoroughfare, a large black pipe serves as a very visible reminder of the ongoing effort. Known as a bypass pipe, that line allows certain segments of the force main to be fixed without having to take the entire system off line.
Hall said the bypass pipe is protected by jersey barriers in case of a motor vehicle accident. At the end of the work day, Hall said sewage flow is returned back to the underground pipe.
The National Water Main Cleaning Company is leading the project, with East Coast Construction and Rain for Rent working as sub-contractors. Funding for the project is through the Middletown Sewer Fund as well as the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank.
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