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Albany Sinkhole Repairs Continue, Water Restrictions Still In Place

Water restrictions continue in Albany as work crews press on with repairs to the infrastructure where a sinkhole opened up along South Lake Avenue.

The drone of heavy machinery serves as a constant reminder of August 2nd, the day a hole opened up along busy South Lake Avenue, swallowing a small SUV and prompting a citywide emergency. It was the second major infrastructure failure in the Washington Park neighborhood this year. Work crews have been on the site 24/7.

Neighbors who declined to go on mic say while they've become accustomed to the sounds they'll be glad to see the day when the work is done.

The major water transmission main that brings water from Albany's treatment plant in Feura Bush to the Loudonville Reservoir had to be turned off, prompting the city, on August 10th, to issue mandatory water restrictions. No lawn watering of any kind, no car washing or hosing of driveways or sidewalks and no filling of swimming pools.  Only hand-watering of gardens is acceptable.    

City Water Commissioner Joe Coffey says fixing the sinkhole presented several challenges.  "We needed to get the debris out of the trunk sewer that had the failure. We had then made an election to line that trunk sewer for the manhole reach upstream and downstream to create essentially new pipes for about 700 feet that would prevent a failure, at least in that section of the trunk sewer in the future. Once that was completed, we have a future project that's gonna run a storm sewer from Quail Street to Washington Park Lake, and that's gonna also pick up the area of Elberon Place that historically has flooded. Our plan was actually to bid that project late this summer, early fall, and start construction this year. Part of that would be to put a 60-inch storm sewer in the center section right next to where we had the sinkhole. So while we were doing the construction we felt it prudent at his point to put the storm sewer in at this time, rather than going back three or four or five months from now and digging the intersection up again. Both the trunk sewer repair and the storm sewer are pretty deep. They're about 20 feet deep, and they are under the 42-inch transmission main that we need to replace.  Once that storm sewer work is done, which we hope will be later this week, potentially early next week, we can tackle the water main and knock that thing out in about four days."

Coffey says repairs have taken a little longer than anticipated. He adds the lack of rain has made it more urgent to conserve water.    "The Latham Water District has been providing some inflow for us at Loudonville, which has provided more capacity in our reservoir, more storage, but the question gets to be if we start putting a lot of demand on the system, not having the transmission main connected, it's sustaining pressure on the parts of the system that would potentially be a problem. So we're kinda looking at it on a day-by-day basis at this point."

Mayor Kathy Sheehan did not return a call for comment. I asked Coffey if the city had the ability to effectively assess the health of the entire water pipe distribution system.   "We look at the history of when the pipes were in, what kind of soil it's in, the condition of the pipe when we do some periodic repairs. It's a little easier on the sewer side because we can do internal inspections of those with video cameras and TV cameras, we do preventive maintenance. So it's probably easier to get a little bit of a sense on the health of the sewer system, as far as the condition of the pipe. It's a little trickier on the water side."

City officials estimate the pricetag for fixing the hole at about $1 million.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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