East Blaine sewer system in need of serious updates

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Blaine City Council unanimously voted during the March 22 council meeting to authorize city manager Michael Jones to approve a contract between public works and engineering firm David Evans and Associates, Inc. to address sewer infrastructure problems in east Blaine.

Concern over dilapidated east Blaine sewer lines was first brought to council’s attention during a March 8 study session when public works staff informed council that sewage had leaked into the streets just west and southwest of the Blaine school district campus last summer. This highlights an extensive infrastructure update that has been recommended since the mid-2000s and was supposed to be completed by 2009, public works staff said.

“Essentially none of the improvements recommended in 2005 have been made in the sewer system,” said Rodney Langer, who works with David Evans and Associates, Inc., during the study session. “We need to understand the low-hanging fruit to get ahead of this issue as quickly as possible.”

City public works director Bernie Ziemianek said the department hopes to have engineering completed and designs ready by September, and will update council on estimated costs throughout the summer. Ziemianek said during the March 22 meeting that the contract will not exceed $530,000.

The study, first done in 2004 and then updated a year later in 2005, predicted sewer overflow northwest of Blaine schools, north of the truck crossing, north of Blaine schools on G Street and along multiple sewer lines in east Blaine. The sewage leak west of the school district was predicted in the 16-year-old study, Langer said.

“Here we find ourselves, some 10 or 15 years since the 2005 General Sewer Plan with no action whatsoever until this point,” Ziemianek said during the study session. “We’ve got to find a fix here or we’ve got some serious things that could take place in the next three to possibly five years.”

Upgrading 1.2 miles of dilapidated sewer lines is estimated between $5 and $6 million, but public works staff emphasized this number is still being calculated. Untouched repairs could also stunt east Blaine growth, where some of Blaine’s biggest projects are being developed, including the Gateway development at the former airport site and large housing projects.

“This is going to necessitate fixing these problems or basically, we’re going to have a very strong chokehold here in east Blaine,” Ziemianek said.

Public works recommended improvements include replacing sewer lines near I-5, SR 543, 8th Street, along I-5 between G Street and Boblett Street, F Street, and adding a new line on part of G Street.

Public works staff is already working on the G Street sewer line so it can be constructed soon and design plans are coming for the sewer line that runs along I-5 between G Street and Boblett Street, Jones said during the study session.

While public works focuses on design, Jones said the finance department is proposing funding now that an estimated budget has been set.

“We are moving toward solutions but we are still a bit of a ways off,” Jones said.

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