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Monday, April 23, 2012

Replacing Metal Pipes Key to Sinkhole Prevention

Monday, April 23, 2012

Facts are stubborn things. Santee’s city engineers know that corrugated metal pipes installed here decades ago for storm water drainage, most put in place long before Santee was incorporated, are eventually going to corrode and collapse.

That’s why the City Council in 2010 approved a plan to inspect the city’s 6.75 miles of metal pipes and prioritize their replacement, starting with those in the worst shape. The city’s capital improvement program calls for spending $5 million on the project over the next five years, but work can only proceed as money becomes available.

A truck found a weak storm drain under Rancho Fanita Dr.
“We’ve taken a proactive approach,” said Principal Civil Engineer Julie Procopio. “The council has made it a priority to replace the unreliable pipes and has allocated significant resources  to address the problem.”

So far, the city has replaced or repaired five high-priority metal storm drains, including a 72-inch diameter pipe beneath Pebble Beach Drive
that collapsed during the record-setting winter rains of 2010-11.

But surprises will happen. Earlier this month, a large truck delivering a storage pod prompted a metal pipe to collapse on Rancho Fanita Drive, causing the vehicle to sink up to its rear axle.  Emergency repairs to that storm drain are expected to be completed in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the city will continue replacing or rehabilitating metal storm drains in conjunction with major street resurfacing projects, a strategy that allows the city to avoid tearing up streets twice. In many cases, the corroded pipes are rehabilitated in place by retrofitting them with reinforced concrete, which is far more durable.

“We’ve finished fixing the very worst pipes, so we’ve moved on to address the next priority level,” said Procopio. “There’s another 10 or so under construction now.”

“By systematically identifying and fixing the most susceptible metal storm drains now, we should be able to prevent potential sinkholes before they happen,” she said.

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