PG&E gas project exposes festering sewage leak that puts bay in peril

The PG&E work site at Seventh and I streets. KLH | Union

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – An infrastructure problem discovered by PG&E is going to cost the City of Arcata up to $60,000 to repair, and it has to be done quickly.

Toiling underneath Samoa Boulevard on its California Natural Gas upgrade project, utility workers found that the connection linking Arcata’s main sewer line to a manhole there has failed. The problem dates back to an apparently sloppy repair in the 1970s, which left bits of permeable “Techite” material in place at the joint.

According to a staff report, well-compacted soil around the faulty connection prevented sewage exfiltration over the years, but the recent excavation has exposed the weakened joint and worsened the leak.

The City Council is being asked to authorize City Manager Karen Diemer to negotiate a contract for up to $75,000 to pay for repairs and any unforeseen expenses. A preliminary estimate puts costs at $50,000 to $60,000.

The work is to be expedited for a couple of reasons, according to the staff report. “When heavy rains begin, the volume of wastewater in this line will increase significantly to upwards of three million gallons a day, causing a condition of risk of imminent failure of the line,” the report states. Continues the report, “the necessity to protect Humboldt Bay from a sewer leak of this magnitude is paramount.”

Along with environmental damage, any sewage spill into the bay would likely result in substantial fines by the Water Quality Control Board.

The normal process for contracting for repairs – developing a bid package and hiring someone to do the work – would take about two months. That would leave the area exposed and at risk of the line which carries about 60 percent of Arcata’s sewage bursting open and putting the bay at risk.

It would also delay PG&E in completing repairs at two sites – the Samoa Boulevard project and the gas line work at Seventh and I streets. The first project started in early October; the llatter project has been in progress since mid-September.

PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contrereas said the Seventh and I project will continue through late January or early February. Area residences and businesses will be notified of any interruptions in service as the project continues.



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