Community Local News

The Metropolitan Sewer District is now repairing two sections of historic brick sewer pipes on opposite ends of Broadway. 

In October, MSD contractors discovered a pair of holes in the large brick sewer pipe beneath East Broadway between S. Brook and S. Hancock streets; the pipe was completed in the year after the Civil War ended in 1866. Work has been underway since then.

Now, MSD crews have found problems in a second large historic brick sewer pipe (circa 1873) on West Broadway between 36th and 37th streets, said Spokeswoman Sheryl Lauder.

The historic pipes have withstood more than a century of storm and wastewater, but heavy rains can loosen and pull on the bricks in old sewer pipes leading to holes or even a sewer collapse.

Impervious surfaces like asphalt and concrete increase the deluge of stormwater entering the older sewer pipes. Climate change too, is accelerating the rate at which many pipes fall apart. 

“It’s a nice heavy handmade brick. They are usually three-rings deep, but what happens is over time the mortar between those bricks can break down,” Lauder said. 

Lauder said crews are working with nearby distilleries to coordinate on repairing the sewer under West Broadway. The distilleries dispose of their waste products through that section of sewer pipe and it can create an unsafe environment for construction workers, she said. 

As a result MSD contractors plan to make the repairs on West Broadway over the holidays, while the distilleries are closed.  At least one eastbound and westbound lane will remain open during the construction. 

MSD anticipates crews will finish repairs on West Broadway in early January, Lauder said. 

There’s no firm date yet for the completion of the repairs on the sewer pipe under East Broadway. 

 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.