HOUSTON – It’s not the most glamorous work done by the city but it is sorely needed.
The City of Houston is wrapping up a sewer-line renovation project that will basically make many of the older, leaking sewer pipes like new.
“Basically what they are doing is taking a plastic sleeve and running it in the pipe and then using water pressure to invert it and fill it out,” said Ricko Nichols, of the Houston Street Department. “It basically gives you a new plastic pipe on the inside of your old sewer line.”
Houston has many sewer lines in need of repair and some of them are over 50 years old.
“When you get into the old orange, clay tile pipes that we have in the older parts of town you have a lot of problems,” said Nichols. “They have a lot of joints and after 50 years you have roots they grow in them, they fill up with dirt and then I don’t have to tell you what kind of problem a homeowner or business can have.”
Nichols said this work is actually part of four projects in various parts of town.
“We’ve had a lot of people ask us what they are doing and it really is a pretty neat process,” said Nichols. “In the old days you had to install new pipe when you had these problems. This lets you use existing pipe and is faster and cheaper.”
The work starts with a camera going down each line and determining where there are problems and where each residential or business sewer line hooks up to a city main. Where there are roots a cutter is sent in. Where there is settled debris a giant hose is sent in to both wash out the line and then suck out the water and gunk.
“Then they put in the sleeve,” said Nichols. “It looks like a thick white plastic sheet. They put it on a machine and use water pressure to force it into the line and turn it inside out.”
And that’s not the end.
After the sleeve is installed another machine goes back in and cuts openings for the sewer lines of homes and businesses.
“One of the main problems we have been having is after a rain our water treatment plant was deluged with water that infiltrated the line,” said Nichols. “We had to treat that rainwater and sometimes it was three days before our water treatment plant could catch up. If we got a lot of rain in a week or two it could be trouble. This work will help alleviate some of that.”
Nichols said they have already seen improvements in both service and at the water treatment plant.
Houston Mayor Stacey Parker said this type of infrastructure work is expensive but badly needed.
“This is not the street paving project or a park path that you can see,” said Parker. “This is all underground work that was neglected for years and we are finally having to pay for it.”
Parker said the city has sought both state and federal money to do this work.
“This work has taken time and is all part of a plan we have to make some major infrastructure improvements in Houston,” said Parker. “Your city board is doing this work over several years and several budgets. And we’re doing it without raising taxes.”
Parker said these type of projects have been a key part of plans for economic development.
“I’ve always felt you have to have a strong foundation for economic development,” said Parker. “Restaurants, motels, businesses, industry and homes have to have sewer facilities that work.
“We are laying a strong foundation with this work today,” he added. “It will pay off with new businesses, industry and homes being built down the road.”