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Sewer pipe needs a major repair

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Construction crews work to repair a sewer line at the intersection of Granada Drive and Road 25 (Pecan Avenue).


The City of Madera identified a hole in the city’s sewer line and was getting ready to work on it last week. However, earlier this week, despite road barricades, several vehicles drove through the barricade and further damaged the city’s main sewer pipe.

“When we were out there this week, we saw evidence of vehicles that drove around the road closure, drove over the hole and caused additional damage,” said Madera City Manager Arnoldo Rodriguez. “Now, the hole in the line is larger and is in multiple areas.”

Before, Rodriguez and the city received a call about erosion in the roadway at the corner of Granada and Pecan avenues.

“The road itself is a county road,” Rodriguez said. “The damage on the road was on the county side. The city has its main trunk line under that portion of the road and it’s 42 inches in diameter. It’s the trunk sewer line that serves the entire city and parts of the county. We identified that there was a 12-inch diameter hole on the top part of that pipe.”

Because of the further damage, the city had to go into rush mode to create a solution to the damage.

“We’ve created a sewer line bypass,” Rodriguez said. “Complicating it is there’s a railroad crossing. It never helps with the storms coming through. We have a temporary solution to a midterm fix. That fix is being executed right now. We will have the solution for several weeks as repairs are done to the line. The entire intersection will be closed for some time until that’s complete.”

The pipe is 16 feet below the surface, corroded and has extensive damage. They identified the damage a while ago and was going through the process of repairing it, but the new damage sped up the process.

“We identified that corrosion about 18 months ago,” Rodriguez said. “We brought in a consultant to scope it and it was a proactive thing to do. Once we identified it, it had been corroded enough for decades. We approached Congressman Jim Costa and Senator Anna Caballero. Through the state budget process, Caballero was able to secure $5 million specific to that project. Costa, through Congress, appropriated $3.5 million. We have $8.5 million that is not coming out of rate payers’ pockets. We knew this area was a problem area. We’ve made it public. We have a plan in place to make the long-term repair. That repair is two miles long. Unfortunately, this snuck up on us and we have a hole in the line to mitigate the situation. We think we have the funds to fix it. The timing is off a little bit because the line has a hole.”

The repair comes after the City of Madera allocated American Rescue Plan Act money towards the water and sewage system.

“The thought process was to use ARPA funds,” Rodriguez said. “Since I’ve arrived, one of the things that has hit home for me is that our water and sewer infrastructure is largely deficient. There’s a lot of deferred maintenance. We’ve been very aggressive in trying to find outside funding. When the city appropriated $23 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, those funds were given great liberty in how they can spend the money. That money could be used in a lot of different ways.

“At the time, the city was studying a proposition 218 vote, which sets the sewer and water rates. We ran the model from an outside firm and they indicated our rates were going up almost $30 more per month to fix the problem. If we could appropriate the $23 million, it would mitigate increases. It was the city staff’s recommendation to use that money for the sewer line. The goal is to mitigate increases, but have a proactive plan to minimize the situation from occurring. It doesn’t mean the city is going to have the most sophisticated system. This means that we’re trying to repair things that should have been fixed.”

Despite the repairs needed, Rodriguez wants the public to know that their water is safe.

“We want to make sure our community members know that their drinking water is safe and when they flush the toilet, it’s going to be treated properly. We’ve been very aggressive in trying to address this situation,” he said. “It’s going to be tough to repair that pipe.”

The first estimate to repair the pipe was $400,000, but Rodriguez doesn’t know how much the extra damage will cost.

“The first estimate to make the repairs was $400,000, but that was before Monday’s damage,” he said. “We brought in emergency pumps Monday and that’s an additional $15,000. The conditions have changed with the repairs. We aren’t sure what that number will be. You never know about a reconstruction project. There’s factors that are difficult to anticipate. The most important thing is to make sure the line is repaired so the community knows we have a safe system.”

However, Rodriguez is working to make sure the water and sewage systems continue to do their jobs and there aren’t any more problems.

“As of today, there is no immediate threat to the public,” he said. “We’ve been able to mitigate it. We have the right plan in place to help us fix the problem. There isn’t a quick fix or a cheap fix to the problem. When you have a 42-in diameter pipe that is 16-feet deep with approximately 5 million gallons of sewage going through it every day, it’s tough.”


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