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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 5th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 35 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 35

Guadalupe deals with a sewer line failure


Worst-case scenario: The city of Guadalupe’s sewer line burst. Best-case scenario: It’s only blocked—badly. To find out what the issue actually is, the city has to bore under five sets of railroad tracks to take a look because it’s exhausted all the other options.

On Oct. 30, Guadalupe experienced a failure of its main gravity-fed sewer line, impacting 285 homes (out of approximately 1,900 in the city) and two handfuls of businesses. To alleviate the problem of toilets going un-flushed, the city started using vacuum trucks to transport wastewater from a collection manhole in the affected area.

That was on Oct. 30. By Oct. 31, the city had installed a temporary aboveground sewer line to keep residents’ sinks draining, City Administrator Andrew Carter said.

“Despite this failure, no one lost service,” Carter said. “No one lost the ability to flush their toilets, in a direct manner of speaking.”

Repairs are expected to take anywhere from two weeks to three months, depending on what the issue is. If it’s a simple blockage, repairs should be quick. If the line ruptured, it’ll take much longer. At worst, repairs are expected to cost up to $250,000.

The city was able to determine the location of the issue using a specially tooled video camera that was pushed into the manhole closest to the line failure.

“There’s a point where we can’t get the video camera past, and based on the distance, it’s under the railroad,” Carter said.

Specifically, it’s under the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, behind the TrusPro manufacturing facility on Obispo Street.

There are three ways to determine what’s up with a sewer line and fix it. If it were just a blockage caused by 50 years’ worth of people putting the wrong things down the drain—grease, for instance—jetting water into the lines at high speed could theoretically push the materials out or a gigantic, industrial-sized drain snake could loosen the blockage enough to move it.

Neither one of those worked in reality, though, so Carter said Guadalupe’s resorting to the final option, which involves a backhoe and a very large hole.

 But it’s not as simple as just digging a hole, because of where the failure is located. The city is currently waiting on an OK from Union Pacific for an easement, and it can’t dig directly through the rail lines, but has to bore underneath them somehow.

“It’s not your run-of-the-mill construction project,” Carter said. 

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