GI Tunnels Under Highway to Repair "Horrific" Sewer Line


Sparked by concerns of a sewer line collapse, Grand Island digs deep, deep into the city's bank account and deep into the earth.

They're employing technology known as microtunneling, as they dig under a busy highway.

Wastewater Plant Engineer Marv Strong said, "They hope to be installing 40 feet a day and be done by Christmas."

Installing sewer lines can be messy business, and usually means digging from the surface.

But with microtunneling, they avoid those problems.

Jason Schwartz of Black & Veatch said, "It limits impact to the public, lot of the public is able to go about their daily lives is key advantage of it."

While it's not quite like playing Xbox, an operator controls the tunneling machine remotely, on site.

Clay and water that is pumped out is pumped back in with limited manpower.

Schwartz said, "Other than a few people in the jacking pit, there's nobody at the head of the machine."

And it's okay with the engineers working on the project if it goes unnoticed, even as just one part of an $8 million project to install new sewer lines.

Strong said, "The person driving east or west on Highway 30 probably won't even notice it's going on."

Strong says replacement is overdue.For one thing, Grand Island is growing and that means bigger pipes.

"Everything we're doing is for 50 year horizon of growth," he said.

But also, the current sewer lines are failing.

Strong said, "This will be replacing a sewer that's in horrific shape. We've already have two repairs on this specific section of sewer and God willing we won't have a third one before we're done."

Not only will they tunnel under Highway 30, they'll go under the Union Pacific rail line.

Strong said, "We had proof the old sewer was collapsed and failing. Our biggest concern was it would collapse under the railroad tracks. That would be absolutely disastrous, worst case scenario."

But this way, they avoid having to interrupt highway traffic or the railroad.