Leaking sewage on South Eighth Street cost Burlington $244,000, up from the $125,000 originally estimated.

The cost disparity obviously isn't great news, Public Works Director Nick MacGregor said, but real concerns will come if such leaks become more commonplace.

"Sewer separation is out in front of us," MacGregor said. "And that's potentially a $100 million project. We don't want to have these problems taking away from that if we can help it."

Added costs were mainly due to the depth of the pipe and the actual amount of pipe needing replacement. Many sewer pipes in the central part of Burlington are over 100 years old, and staff only have best estimates about where exactly they lay.

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Staff guessed 60 feet of the line needed replacing, but found worse damage than expected under the surface. In total, about 125 feet of sewer pipe was replaced. The pipe in question was about 30 feet below the ground and required a substantial excavation.

City Council members were briefed on the cost at Monday's council meeting. City staff deemed the situation an emergency and held a fast-track bidding process for the work without prior council approval.

MacGregor explained Monday that the emergency bidding process was used because "raw sewage" was being discharged into public spaces. Four Seasons Excavation won with an original bid of $90,000 prior to later contract changes.

Work was completed in late April, but the finances won't be approved until Monday's city council meeting.

Monday, Councilman Matt Rinker questioned the expense of seeding the property. Because of the area's slope, crews used hydro-seeding, a slurry of seeds and mulch, to ensure grass grew back quick enough to hit an encroaching deadline. The original bid list the grass seeds at $1,000, but the hydro process and the greater area of work pushed the final cost to $5,400.

The leak occurred in a residence's backyard on the low end of a slope at the back of the parking lot between Family Dollar and Kempker's True Value.

Staff are not sure how long the leak was open, but know that residents did not immediately recognize or report it.

MacGregor said "much of our time and money and effort has been on sewer separation, not maintenance to older sewer lines." If more unexpected sewer problems spring up as a result, said sewer separation will only get harder to fund.

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