Politics & Government

Replacing sewage pipe could cost Wichita $45 million

The pipe that connects Wichita Sewage Plant No. 1 to Plant No. 2 is at high risk of failing.
The pipe that connects Wichita Sewage Plant No. 1 to Plant No. 2 is at high risk of failing. File photo

A 3-mile-long pipe that carries 60 percent of Wichita’s waste to Sewage Treatment Plant No. 2 is at high risk of failing, according to city documents.

On Tuesday, Wichita City Council members were shown pictures of the inside of the eroding pipe, which carries 25 million gallons of Wichita’s waste each day.

The pipe has no redundancy, which means that if it breaks, there is no backup plan and the city has about 24 hours before its storage basins fill.

“We could be close to that point if we don’t move soon,” said City Engineer Gary Janzen.

The city estimates it will cost up to $45 million to replace it.

Janzen said the city has waited to replace the pipe because of deferred maintenance over the past several years. The city is now in a better position financially to replace it, he said, and rate increases already in place should cover the cost of the fix.

Sonar readings show there is debris blocking parts of the pipe, including a metal plate and a grate. The City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with a design phase, and construction on the pipe could start in early 2017.

25 milliongallons a day goes through the pipe

The pipe runs under council member James Clendenin’s district in southeast Wichita.

In a previous interview, he had said: “That pipe is beyond preventative maintenance right now and it’s due to just –” He then made an explosion gesture.

“If it collapses, everybody in the city is going to have a problem with not being able to flush,” he said. “That would be a major, major problem.”

The city is still looking at ways to improve the reliability of the 50-year-old pipe. Ideas include using internal coatings and a slip line that essentially creates a new pipe inside the old pipe.

The city also is considering an emergency response plan that would create access points all along the pipe and then have pipe fittings ready to add in case a bypass is needed. Repairs would also be easier with the added access points.

Kelsey Ryan: 316-269-6752, @kelsey_ryan