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Pipe confusion delays road work

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Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 9:55 pm

Construction on East Shore Road to consolidate the Village of Great Neck and Great Neck Water Pollution Control District sewer systems has been delayed at least a month by unidentified utility lines that are unclaimed by either the Water Authority of Great Neck North or gas provider National Grid.

The effort to consolidate the sewer system, which began in November, is still on track for its scheduled completion date this summer, according to Great Neck Water Pollution Control District Superintendent Christopher Murphy. 

But pipe-laying for the project has faced repeated delays, with workers uncovering several gas and water lines that were not previously known to the district and which neither the water authority nor gas provider National Grid had charted on their utility maps.

”East Shore Road has been quite a complicated, difficult situation,” Murphy said. “Every time we start to dig to put in a new piece of pipe, it seems like we’re encountering another piece of pipe that’s not on anybody’s prints.”

Workers have found between four and six pipes whose status - whether live or dead, gas or water - was not immediately known to the water authority or National Grid. Each such pipe causes about a week of delays, Murphy said, as the district checks with each utility and taps the lines to ensure that it is safe to dig.

Water Authority of Great Neck North Superintendent Greg Graziano said his utility had assisted the sewer district with tapping pipes, which turned out to be dead lines of unknown origin.

“The authority marked out what we have in service,” Graziano said. “Whether they were our pipes our someone else’s pipes we don’t know, but there was no utility coming through it.”

National Grid has been in contact with the district and is working to move one line, according to spokesperson Wendy Ladd.

And, according to Ladd, National Grid’s discussions with the district had also focused on a pipe that turned out to be owned by the water authority.

“There was a question about a pipe that was going back and forth between us and the water authority, and it turned out to be a water authority pipe,” Ladd said.

The delays leave road work equipment lying idle on the side of East Shore Road, as drivers navigate around cones and through road’s narrowed lanes.

The presence of dead lines was not unexpected.

“It’s not abnormal to leave [old pipe] in place instead of digging up the whole road to remove it,” Murphy said.

But the confusion over who owns the lines, or whether they are live or dead, is far from standard practice, according to Murphy.

“That’s a good question,” Murphy said, when asked why the piping did not appear on the records of the water authority or National Grid.

Murphy said that part of the reason for the unmapped piping could be traced to Citizen’s Water, the private water company that was purchased by the public Water Authority of Great Neck North in 1989. Citizen’s Water could have removed dead lines from its maps when they were decommissioned, leaving no record of where they lay, Murphy said.

Graziano said he could not speculate on the origins of the pipes.

The district is working as quickly as possible to end the construction, according to Murphy. He encouraged residents to contact the district with questions or concerns about the project.

“I can definitely appreciate the frustration of the residents,” Murphy said. “We’re trying everything we can to get off the road, believe me.”

The link-up, when completed, will result in the closure of the Village of Great Neck’s sewer plant, which currently services about two thirds of the Village. All sewage will be handled through the new plant, which was designed to reduce nitrogen dumping into the Long Island Sound in accordance with rulings from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. 

The project will cost about $60 million in total and the end result will be more efficient, Murphy said.

“Along the course of looking at the best way to go, it was decided that we would create one upgraded facility at the district.” Murphy said. “It will actually cost less to run the new plan than to run the two existing ones, and we’ll get better treatment.

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