The largest public works project in Hartford history started Monday, a massive effort to redo part of the city's century-old plumbing and curtail the millions of gallons of sewage and storm water that overflow into the basements, streets and streams of the North End after heavy rain.
It's the first leg of a 15-year, $2 billion project by the Metropolitan District Commission to separate sewage from storm water in metro Hartford and reduce the frequency of sewer overflows from once a week to once a year. 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.
Later this month, a clay-eating tunnel machine will begin laying a conduit 3,200 feet long and 100 feet underground, from Bushnell Park to Walnut Street near Homestead Avenue, snaking under I-84. The machine won't stop until it's done — 70 days of continuous burrowing.
Once completed in November 2010, the tunnel will carry sewage away from the Upper Albany neighborhood, and storm water will be piped in separate lines to the Park River.
For years, the two flows have mixed and spilled into the neighborhood or swamped the treatment plant in the South Meadows, contributing to about 1 billion gallons of overflow a year in metro Hartford, said Bob Moore, the MDC's chief operating officer.
Throughout the spring and summer, crews will be going from house to house in the blocks along Edgewood Street and, later, Burton, Irving, Magnolia and Sigourney streets, separating the storm and sewer pipes and building new connections from the houses to new pipes in the street.
About two dozen mature trees will have to be cut down from Homestead Avenue to Greenfield Street to accommodate the work. Streets will be dug up and repaved from curb to curb. Some sidewalks will be replaced.
The neighborhood has rallied behind the project, said Karraine Moody, who is working with the Upper Albany Neighborhood Revitalization Zones to keep residents and business owners informed. The MDC has opened a storefront information center on Albany Avenue near Edgewood.
"People know this is a positive project for the North End," Moody said. "We can do good things in the inner city when we're organized. Residents and merchants are going to benefit from this."
Eventually, storage tunnels will be built to collect excess water and the capacity of the treatment plant will more than double to 250 million gallons a day, Moore said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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