Sewer drilling foiled by oily soil; work halted

COLUMBIA CITY — A second sewer line drilling operation has run into a snag in Columbia City.While city crews run new sewer lines throughout the city, it sometimes becomes necessary to run the lines under roads or railroad tracks without digging.In those instances, a technique called jack and bore is used.According to Columbia City’s Outside Operations Manager Jeff Walker, this technique ran into problems last month on Radio Road with settling soil.This month, with sewer installing crews heading north near South Line Street, contaminated soil is the culprit.In jack and bore, a pit, known as a launch pit is dug on one side of where the boring will begin. On the other side, a receiving pit is dug. The pits are about 20 feet deep, according to Walker.An auger cuts through the soil, allowing the insertion of a steel casing in which sewer pipe can be easily placed.At South Line Street, on property owned by Whitley County, contaminated soil was discovered.The property is the site of the county’s fueling station, but Walker said the contamination, believed to be lubricating oil, is probably pre-existing and was contaminated, according to Walker, before the county owned the property.Regardless of the cause, the city and county must now work in tandem with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to dispose of the contaminated soil.At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Columbia City Common Council, the board authorized Mayor Jim Fleck and Walker to act on the city’s behalf in approaching county officials about the cleanup project, which is estimated to cost between $100,000 and $150,000.If necessary, Fleck and Walker suggested to the board the city could advance the county the money, to be paid back later.Walker said the jack and bore process on Line Street spans about 200 feet. The process is stalled while soil cleanup awaits IDEM approval. Once the process is resumed, the boring could take about 10 days.