April 26, 2004 – Residents of Estate Diamond can breath fresh, tropical air again. The Public Works Department located a blocked sewage line Sunday on the Melvin Evans Highway and cleared it. The line was clogged in January when Zenon Construction was laying underground, electrical cable for the Water and Power Authority, according to project manager Carlos Rueben Velazquez.
He said the company reported in January cutting a concrete pipe in the trenching process, but after DPW surveyed the site, the company was told that section of the system was not in use.
After three months of calls to DPW, Estate Diamond resident James Gumbs said he hopes that the problem is alleviated. He said the odor was nauseating, especially on weekends, when his neighbors were doing laundry.
"My wife keeps calling. Sometimes we can't even open the back door," Gumbs said. A river of murky water flows along the southern boundary of his yard. Nights have been warm for him, as his bedroom windows remain closed due to the stench.
Gumbs also wondered if it is safe to eat the extremely large papayas dangling from a tree surrounded by the river of sewage in his backyard. "Have you ever seen anything this big?" One fruit is the size of a soccer ball.
Gumbs said he has resided in the community for a year. Five other homes are under construction. He worries that the problem will reoccur when other homes are occupied.
DPW contractor Elrose Richards, Mickey's Construction, said he required a backhoe to dig four feet through asphalt into a line that was believed to be an abandoned pipeline. "DPW tried for two days to clear the line. They kept snaking and could not get through."
Joseph Bradford, DPW utilities manager, said Monday, "In an attempt to patch it, they (Zenon) filled it with concrete." He added, "When we did an exploratory we found it. Normally, a line like that doesn't clog because of the size of the pipe."
After workmen removed the concrete, sewage is reportedly flowing freely through the line. The 12-inch-diameter, concrete, culvert pipe runs about 60 feet under the highway from Diamond, on the north side, to the blockage, on the south.
Velazquez said the trenching, which runs from the east airport road along Melvin Evans Highway to the Hannah's Rest stoplight, began last October and is expected to be completed by June. He said the incident occurred while burying WAPA's feeder No. 8.
Velazquez said the company is careful. "These are the little things that get in your glass of milk." He said Zenon has served the islands for 30 years.
Reynaldo Bermudez, of the DPW work crew, said they had responded to the resident's call several times over the weeks but could not get the line cleared. "It only seemed to be a temporary fix, then we were out here again." He said he was very happy to get it fixed right. Working on the problem put the department's two sewage trucks out of commission for a period of time.
"We gave it our 100 percent effort before we called out the contractor," Bermudez said. He added that Robert Moorehead, DPW assistant commissioner, had been out Saturday and Sunday to survey the site. A complement of four DPW employees, two Zenon workers, and seven employees from Mickey's Construction was on site Sunday working on the problem.
"This is under control now. This is done," Richards said.
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