Its job: To dig a 3,700-foot-long tunnel from Walnut Street to Bushnell Park, slowly boring an underground passageway so that, when the massive MDC project is complete, heavy rains won't cause regular sewer overflows into area basements and waterways.
This morning, the Metropolitan District Commission is scheduled to lower into the ground a laser-guided micro-tunneling machine on Walnut Street. As it bores, the machine will leave a 6-foot tunnel of precast concrete behind it, through which the wastewater from Albany Avenue will eventually flow. It's the most visible of the first steps in the commission's 15-year, $2 billion project to separate sewage from storm water in metro Hartford and reduce the frequency of sewer overflows from once a week to once a year.
Weaving its way to the park, the tunnel-boring machine will make its way beneath I-84 and — because of the mechanics of the operation — won't stop until it's done, two months later. The city even had to amend its noise ordinance, just in case.
"This is the main spine of the separation program to allow both the storm and sanitary water to get where they're supposed to go without overflow," said the commission's Bob Moore.
The commission's work is possibly the biggest public works project that the area will have seen in a generation, touching some residents where they live — as workers will dig up old residential pipes that channel storm and sewer water and replace them with one pipe for each.
They'll do the same thing in various city and surrounding town streets, digging up the roads to split the rainwater from the sewage. The point is to stop what has been happening for years — backups of sewage into basements and waterways when heavy rains occur.
Ratepayers will foot the bill, with an annual sewer service surcharge that is outlined on the water bill. The MDC is working with $800 million in voter-approved bond money and will eventually have to go back to the voters for more.
"This permanently eliminates the clean water from going into the sanitary sewers," Moore said. "In the areas we're separating, we're bringing new pipes into everybody's homes."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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