Failing Pipes Cause Dangerous Cave-Ins
The Augusta Chronicle 7/2/2003
A hole in the middle of New Savannah Road, which opened
almost two weeks ago, blocks truck routes for industrial companies to
and from Gordon Highway in south Augusta.
ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER/STAFF
Failing pipes cause dangerous cave-ins
Web posted Tuesday, July 1, 2003
By Preston Sparks | Staff Writer
In Augusta, it's not the sky that's falling. It's the roads.
Unlike in the Chicken Little tale, though, there really is a cause for
concern, officials say.
"They're starting to become somewhat problematic," said Teresa Smith,
the director of Augusta Public Works, referring to a high number of road
cave-ins occurring lately in Augusta.
In the past three months, Ms. Smith said, her department has had to
repair 30 road cave-ins. Some have been dangerously deep and in the
middle of major roads. Others were in parking lots at apartments and
The problem is beginning to crop up more and more as the city's old
corrugated metal drainage pipes rust, causing drainage changes that make
the ground below pavement unstable. It eventually hollows out and
The decay is becoming a concern in other cities, too. According to the
Water Infrastructure Network - a national group of lawmakers, water
providers and engineers - between $300 billion and $500 billion will be
needed in the next 20 years to fix or replace city pipes nationwide.
Ms. Smith said that her department has to operate under a pinched budget
but that she is now banking on a possible cure for at least part of what
lies beneath Augusta's streets: a device that blows up inside a pipe,
conforming to its shape and releasing a chemical that hardens like
"If it's not cost-prohibitive, I'm hoping we'll be able to use it in a
number of places," she said.
Still, that fix won't help if an entire pipe system has become so
damaged by rust that it needs to be dug up and replaced. One location
where an underground storm drainage system might need to be replaced is
Woodcrest Apartments, Ms. Smith said. Drainage pipes there, she said,
have become so rusty that several of the complex's parking spaces
already have begun to cave in.
Ms. Smith said workers could repair the parking lot cave-in before
summer's end. The work could cost as much as $200,000.
Another recent cave-in, on New Savannah Road, has caused a 4-foot-deep,
4-foot-wide hole in the middle of the road at the entrance of Shapiro
Packing Co. Inc. The road was closed, but officials say they'll start
repairs in three to five weeks.
Dennis Stroud, of Augusta Public Works, said nothing was done about the
hole immediately because a new sewer line had been planned, which would
have involved removing the road. The sewer improvement, however, won't
take place for another year now, he said, so his department is preparing
to fix the cave-in, which he said occurred about three weeks ago.
On Monday, Amelia Gilchrist and George Williams fished at a pond along
New Savannah Road, just yards from the cave-in. Before the road was
closed, they said, they used it as a quick access route to Gordon
Highway. Now, they drive about a quarter-mile farther to get to Gordon
Highway. Ms. Gilchrist said a quick fix is needed.
"That right there, a drunk person could come driving through and run
right into that," she said, motioning to concrete barricades in the
middle of the road.
Because of the road closing, large trucks delivering to Shapiro have to
take a longer route back to Gordon Highway.
A cave-in at a commercial parking lot off Walton Way Extension near
Davis Road also has created tensions. Ms. Smith said the property owner
has been upset with the city because city pipes caused the cave-in.
"We're trying to come up with some solution to his problem," she said.
Teresa Smith: The director of Augusta Public Works said her department
has repaired more than 30 concrete collapses in the past three months.
Mr. Stroud said the headache is only going to get worse as the city's
pipes get older.
"Certainly, if we can get the opportunity to take metal out and put
plastic in, that's the way to go," he said.
Metal pipes aren't the only problem, though. Terracotta pipes, made of
red clay, remain in some areas of Augusta and also are deteriorating.
"Again, it was put in long before the city experienced this type of
growth," Mr. Stroud said. "Now, that stuff is just starting to fail. "
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston. sparks@augustachronicle.
--From the Wednesday, July 2, 2003 printed edition of the Augusta