A wide area of northeastern
Brandywine Hundred, served by what are known as the Delaware and
the Naamans sewer lines, has been designated as the initial
phase of the project. The territory drained by the lines forms
an inverted 'L' along the Delaware River between Edgemoor and
Claymont and west along Naamans Creek to roughly Shipley Road.
A web of terra cotta pipe, with diameters ranging from eight
inches in the farthest reaches and growing to 30 inches,
carries between 10 million and 11
million gallons of effluent a day to the city of Wilmington's
sewage treatment plant along the river just north of the city.
That plant handles all sewage generated north of the Chesapeake
& Delaware Canal.
work already is underway, according to project manager Ted
DeBoda, but a concerted and focused effort to remedy many
years of deferred maintenance was approved by County
Council as part of the capital budget enacted this spring.
In all, some $7 million will be spent over the past,
present and next fiscal years.
A public meeting to detail what is about to happen will be
held on July 19, beginning at 7:30 p.m., in Brandywine
High School. The session will be jointly sponsored by the
county, the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine
Hundred, the Claymont Community Coalition and the Fox
(right) points to the areas of Brandywine Hundred --
shaded in green and yellow -- where initial sewer
rehabilitation will occur.
Joe Paoli and Ken Miller (below) prepare a
remote-controlled camera for insertion into a sewer
line. Paoli (below, right) follows its progress
through the line with a television monitor.
While county officials emphasize that
the project will result in a minimum of disruption, that is not
to say that residents won't notice that something is going on.
Sure to attract attention will be the technique of pumping white
smoke into the sewers to locate problems. If the smoke comes out
at places where it is not supposed to be able to escape, that
will indicate a break or a crack. It works pretty much the same
way as immersing a flat tire into a tub of water and looking for
But, according to DeBoda,
county officials are at pains to assure the citizenry there is
no cause for alarm. Chemicals in the smoke are certified
non-toxic and dissipate quickly, he said. Even if the vapors
come out inside houses, there will be no ill effect and their
presence will alert the householder to the need to fix something
-- like a faulty trap in a drain pipe.
For some folks, there will be a bit of a down side to the
smoke's tell-tale function, however. When coupled with flow
meters, it not only will detect flaws but also help locate
clandestine hookups. It has long been known that sump pumps,
so-called French drains and even downspouts from roofs have been
improperly -- and illegally -- connected to sanitary sewers.
That flow is supposed to go into the separate storm sewer
DeBoda said no one can
estimate how much 'unauthorized diversion' is happening, but
those in the business have reason to believe such practice is
widespread. "A lot of people don't even realize it's illegal"
and it is believed that a majority of the connections were made
by original owners and even builders, he said.
At this point, he added, there has been no decision about what
is going to happen when the connections are discovered. Purpose
of the project is to upgrade the sewer system and catch up on
the effects of many years of deferred maintenance and being able
to spot encroachment is secondary to that. Chances are there
will be an amnesty with ample time to voluntarily remedy the
"A big part of
what we hope to do is informational," De Boda said. Although
sewers are literally a part of daily life, they understandably
are taken for granted. Unless something goes wrong -- backups of
raw sewage into homes during a storm, for instance -- few people
realize that collective misuse can produce widespread
Besides the smoke, the
job of finding and fixing flaws is accomplished by the use of
remote-controlled television cameras. They move through the
pipes on dollies beaming back a running picture to a console in
a truck parked between manholes. When cracks are located, they
are sealed by pumping grout into them, using the same dollies.
More extensive breaks are repaired by threading a plastic liner
through the pipe. In the event of severe damage, the ultimate
solution is a liner which can be inflated to a point where it
bursts the pipe and becomes the new pipe.
Also by remote control, the pipes can be cleaned. That, DeBoda
explained, is a major goal of the project because, as would be
expected, it increases the capacity of the system without having
to lay bigger pipe. A recently completed cleaning under the
development of Rolling Hills reduced flow levels from between 20
and 30 inches to less than 10 inches, That is equivalent to
increasing capacity by more than double.