January 08, 2009 12:00AM
After a week working under the front lawn of the Pittsburg State University campus, city crews have replaced wastewater lines almost as old as the university itself.
Crews from the City of Pittsburg have spent the past several days working on the front side of Russ Hall, replacing a wastewater main that had been causing problems for years. The line, which flushed wastewater away from all the buildings surrounding the Oval, as well as the stadium, had been in a state of disrepair and was long overdue to be replaced.
"We've been in discussions about this project for years," said Tom Amershek, director of building trades and landscape maintenance at PSU. "This line was in bad shape."
Amershek said the line was constructed nearly 100 years ago of petrified clay pipe - a cured and heated material that while very strong, is brittle enough to be broken with a sledgehammer. Over the years, the clay pipe had shifted and cracked from tree root growth and settlement. The pipe had also been installed in different sizes in some areas, resulting in wastewater bottlenecking and sewage backups.
"Some areas just had a six-inch pipe," Amershek said. "I don't know if the early constructors could have had any idea about the growth the campus would experience."
Efforts to replace the pipe all the way up to its connection to the city's main, just north of the university on Broadway Street, began after the university agreed to the creation of a benefit district. The new district means a public line will be installed near Cleveland and Broadway Streets, serving residences there. The line has already been replaced for homes and fraternity houses near Lindburg and Broadway Streets, just south of the university. The $267,000 cost is being shared by the residents tying into the line, as well as the university.
"The new line is a public line that the city will maintain," explained Bill Beasley, director of public works for the City of Pittsburg. "There have always been problems with the sewer lines in this area. We've tried to send a camera up it on a couple of occasions but it's always been in such bad shape that we couldn't see much. It's going to be a big difference."
Although the work is major - restrooms in all the buildings circling the Oval were shut down all week to accommodate the work - the replacement didn't mean digging up the entire front lawn. Crews were able to dig the areas around a few manholes and replace the line using the "pipe bursting" technique, in which they inserted a device that would expand and break up the old clay pipe as the new PVC pipe was pushed through. Crews replaced about 400 feet of pipe from the manhole near Russ Hall to Broadway Street.