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New sewer line installation getting underway

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BALM – A new force main sewer line here is promising improved infrastructure maintenance but also is prompting concern about potential long term effects.
Hillsborough County is to begin installation of a wastewater transmission line along C.R. 672 in forthcoming weeks, connecting with line currently in place along the Balm-Riverview Road and along U.S. 301. The link-up project, when complete, will allow transmission of sewage either to the South County treatment plant near I-75 or to the Valrico treatment facility, thereby permitting repair or maintenance work on the plant temporarily taken out of service, according to county engineers.Road-closed
But, the project also will extend into a rural area the kind of service usually confined to the urban services areas established to accommodate eventual development. It is a fact that alarms some Balm residents disinterested in connecting to such municipal services and determined to stave off any encroaching new development.
The issues were raised last week when about 20 residents met with county staff for an informational exchange at the University of Florida’s Gulf Coast Agricultural Research Center east of Balm.
The project consists of laying 24-inch wastewater transmission pipe along the south side of C.R. 672, about four feet underground either in the road right-of-way or through easements granted by some owners of property abutting the two-lane pavement, according to Kevin Moran, professional engineer and wastewater planner in Hillsborough’s Water Resource Services Department.
The pipe installation between the Balm-Riverview Road at the eastern end and U.S. 301 at the western end - a distance of 3.5 miles – is budgeted at a total cost of $3.5 million. There are no lift stations nor treatment plants planned or part of the project, Moran said.
Residents and other drivers along that section of C.R. 672 will begin to see preliminary activities along the roadside which will not disrupt traffic in the next week or so, said John Killian, project construction manager.
However, within about a month dirt will be turned and the heavy work of pipe installation will get underway, he added. This part of the project will require closing C.R. 672 to all traffic along the installation route between 9:30 PM and 5:30 AM, Killian said. Sheriff’s deputies will be stationed at both the eastern and western terminus points to assist if any residents along the route must leave or return to the area during the hours of closure, the construction manager added. The deputies also will help redirect any non-resident traffic during the night time hours.
In addition, large, lighted message boards will be posted at appropriate points providing information about road closures and re-openings, plus close coordination with emergency services will be maintained, Killian noted.
The installation work requiring road closure is scheduled entirely at night, he added. There are no plans to close C.R. 672 for any prolonged period of time during the day and customary traffic in the area is expected to continue during the day.
Although numerous residential and institutional/industrial driveways connect with C.R. 672, only one side road – McGrady – links directly with the county road. Killian acknowledged that McGrady will have to be closed for a short time – perhaps a few hours - as the sewer line is installed under it. Precisely when McGrady will be closed is not yet determined, he added. All driveway entrances and culverts under them will be returned to standard after the sewer line is installed, Killian said.
The construction manager also said this week he does not yet know whether the pipe laying will begin at the eastern or western ends, or at some point in between. The work performance contract cites a 250-day or approximately eight-month project, he added, but may well be completed in less time.
However, it was neither the project length nor the road closure at night that concerned Marcella O’Steen, president of the Balm Civic Association. Instead, it is extension of an urban service into the rural area, putting into place infrastructure that could be capitalized upon by some developer in the future.
O’Steen pointed out that extending the sewer line into a rural area “could help facilitate premature development and conversion of rural land to urban sprawl by making infrastructure available to future developers.” Such a circumstance could mean “developers would not have to shoulder the cost by paying impact fees; we taxpayers would have already paid for it, even though we don’t want it,” she asserted.
She went on to emphasize that Hillsborough’s Comprehensive Plan allows for septic systems and water wells in rural areas - a situation treasured by citizens who have intentionally moved to the more rural sections of the county such as Balm and neither value nor want to pay for urban services. “There is no need to be extending infrastructure out here at this time,” she declared, “no need at all.”
Moran acknowledged that about 2.5 miles of the transmission line will be in the rural area, east of and beyond the existing urban services boundary. However, he emphasized that the new force main sewer line is “not going to lead to development in and of itself.” Nor is it a reaction to prospective growth near Balm, he added, but rather “is needed to move wastewater around.” Growth in the South County region has led to need for managing sewage flow but the situation is not related to any growth along C.R. 672, he indicated. In fact, he added, at one point, a treatment plant near the Southeast Landfill east of Balm on C.R. 672 was considered, but the concept has been completely removed from consideration.
Killian noted that inevitably “hiccups” will occur as the project progresses, but added that “we will do everything possible to make it easier for residents and those driving the route .” The project manager said he expects “to be onsite quite a bit” during the course of the installation and asked that anyone with questions or encountering problems contact him directly on his cell phone, 813/334-8720. He also said he wants to maintain open communications with the community through its civic association throughout the project.
Copyright 2010 Melody Jameson
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