Residents of Keystone and Barlow drives are not the only folks anxious to see the final 140 feet of debris from Yeager Airport’s collapsed runway safety zone removed. There’s also Larry Roller, general manager of the Charleston Sanitary Board.
Keystone Drive has remained blocked since the March 12, 2015, landslide swept across the roadway, eliminating its connection with Barlow Drive, which once provided a secondary access route to downtown Charleston for Keystone residents, and access to Greenbrier Street/W.Va. 114 for those living on Barlow. But under Keystone’s pavement, another transportation system also remains blocked: a large Charleston Sanitary Board sewer line.
Following the safety-overrun area collapse, “We knew raw sewage was going in one end of the line and not coming out the other” in the vicinity of the landslide, Roller said. “We came up with a work-around solution using a generator and two pumps to bypass the section of line that we assume was crushed by the slide.”
What Roller hoped would be a short-term fix remains in place more than a year later, requiring the 24/7 operation of a leased generator and pumps, the purchase of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, and paying Sanitary Board workers extra to refuel and maintain the generator and pumps on weekends and holidays.
Building the work-around fix with a section of temporary pipe, the pumps and the generator wasn’t all that expensive, compared to the cost of maintaining the system for more than a year, according to Roller.
“I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I suspect we’ve spent in excess of six figures by now to keep this system going since April,” Roller said.
The Sanitary Board did receive some reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Administration for installing the bypass system.
“It helped a little,” Roller said.
The Sanitary Board hopes to eventually receive reimbursement for operating the bypass system from Yeager Airport, once Yeager gets reimbursed through expected insurance payments and hoped-for lawsuit settlements.
“This situation highlights the need to have a cash reserve, which the Public Service Commission is reluctant to let cities handle,” citing ratepayer concerns, Roller said. “You can’t budget for something like this happening.”
The Sanitary Board manager said the airport and its staff “have been very cooperative with us and helped us get the FEMA money, but we want to see this thing resolved” so that money will be available to permanently repair the damaged sewer line once debris has been removed from Keystone Drive.
That work is expected to begin by June 20, Yeager Airport Director Terry Sayre said Monday, during a meeting of the airport’s construction committee.
Sayre said an agreement has been reached between Yeager’s legal counsel, its insurance carrier and attorneys for the five defendants involved in lawsuits filed by the Charleston airport over the safety-zone collapse to collect core-drilling samples near the base of the landslide to be analyzed for use in litigation. Twenty-three bore holes will be drilled starting May 31 and be completed within two weeks, allowing debris removal to resume by June 20. That work is expected to take 10 to 12 weeks to complete.
“We need to get Keystone back open,” Sayre said. “We owe it to the people who live there and on Barlow Drive, and to the city of Charleston, to make it possible to fix the sewer line.”
Sayre said an amendment to the transportation appropriation bill recently passed by the Senate added by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would make it possible for Yeager and other airports to seek funding in excess of regular annual allocations from the Federal Aviation Administration for airports in immediate need of critical infrastructure repairs.
If signed into law, the new legislation “will give us the opportunity to rebuild our EMAS area” and the fill area that supports it, Sayre said.
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