Stealth sewers

Directional drilling leaves little evidence of $17.8 million Bayside sewer project

Posted 8/3/22

It’s been more than 25 years since the Warwick Sewer Authority started talking about and then designing sewers for what has become known as the Bayside project. And now that that it’s …

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Stealth sewers

Directional drilling leaves little evidence of $17.8 million Bayside sewer project


It’s been more than 25 years since the Warwick Sewer Authority started talking about and then designing sewers for what has become known as the Bayside project. And now that that it’s been months since construction started, it’s like little has changed.

Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur loves it that way.  Neighborhood traffic can get around. There are not piles of dirt alongside the road; there’s little dust and in some parts of the job it’s hard to tell work is happening because it’s underground.

“For the most part there’ve been no problems. It’s neat and the crews are polite and friendly. Residents have even brought them pizza and water,” Ladouceur told Ken Traub. Traub is vice president – his wife is president – of the Torrington, CT-based Hemlock Directional Boring Co. He was operating a new $500,000 piece of equipment that looks like it came off a set for Star Wars Friday morning on Friendship Street. It is shiny red with LED lights and an air conditioned cab that looks like it’s off a jet fighter. A screen fed by telemetry from a reader on a tripod down the road showed him the location of a drill bit seven feet below the surface and 100 feet away. At his feet was the family pet and company mascot, Marlow.

This is the first time the WSA has used directional drilling to install sewers. It’s not a Rhode Island first for Traub. The company replaced a stainless steel pipe under the Providence River when the connection between Providence and Bristol Water ruptured as well as worked with municipal sewer authorities. 

The sewer authority is going to such lengths not to disturb the immediate two to three feet of subsurface because the area – largely Riverview – was a Native American summer encampment or even a village at one time. An archeological survey consisting of test pits in the middle of Tidewater Drive found burial sites and artifacts that were left in place following ceremonies.

The presence of native archeological features ruled out conventional open pit construction of sewers.  Directional drilling in Riverview was the alternative. Open pit construction is being used in the Highland Park neighborhood adjacent to Rocky Point Park. 

So far, despite a few unanticipated developments such as a boulder the directional drill encountered on Friendship that required excavation, the overall project is on budget and slightly ahead of schedule. The overall project is projected for completion capable to handle homeowner connections by the end of 2023.

“The main lines on Tidewater (Drive) are pretty much done,” said Mathew Solitro, of the WSA. At the southern end of Tidewater a D’Ambra Construction crew was “fusing” the pipes for the 6-inch interceptors running off the 8-inch main in Tidewater. D’Ambra is the general contractor on the job.  On Friday another D’Ambra crew was doing open-pit installation of sewers in Highland Beach. That area poses a different challenge from Native American artifacts – ledge. So far crews have cut through 852 cubic yards of rock.

Remarkably , however, the project hasn’t been rocked so far by inflation and availability of materials.

“Our timing was good considering the supply chain,” Betty Anne Rogers, WSA director, said in an interview Thursday. 

The authority has made one significant change order at a cost of $474,000  to replace in-road level shutoff valves with manholes and below grade shutoffs. The reasoning, explained Solitro, is that the 6-foot diameter manholes will provide better access to the system in the years to come.

Unknown at this time is what it will cost to repave those streets impacted by construction. This includes those streets where directional drilling has been used. The contract includes an asphalt fuel escalator clause that will reflect the cost of asphalt when the repaving is done.

So as to lock in costs, the authority is moving ahead now with the purchase of home pumps for the low pressure system feeding wastewater to the Tidewater Road pump near the intersection with West Shore Road. From there the wastewater is pumped to the Cedar Swamp  pump and from there to more pumps ending at the treatment plant off Service Avenue on the bank of the Pawtuxet River.

Solitro said there are redundant safeguards in the event of a power or pump failure. Home grinder pumps have backflow values should they fail. Backflow valves are also part of the system.

Rogers said the authority has about 50 home pumps, which cost about $3,900 each, and is looking to buy 300 more now in anticipation of the first wave of connections when the system goes live. The pumps are included as part of the assessment. Overall, more than 900 property owners will gain access to sewers.

Solitro and Rogers urged homeowners to take advantage of the option of directional drilling and installing a pipe ready for a connection at their house, regardless of whether they plan to connect or not. If done now when directional drilling is occurring, there is no cost to the homeowner.

If, on the other hand, the homeowner elects to do the work they would be faced with the cost of digging an open trench from the street to the home, running the risk of encountering archeological features that could delay the project and mean added costs. The homeowner is still faced with the cost of making the connection from the pump inside the house to the pipe outside their property.

The authority is in the process of conducting a survey of property owners to determine if they want a line brought to their home. Pits in the street will serve as a junction box for two properties on both sides of the road. 

“Do yourself a favor and save a lot of money,” Solitro urged homeowners. “You don’t have to connect.”

 Ladouceur found sewers to be a top community issue when he first ran for office ten years ago. Homeowners faced with failing septic systems and cesspools that were going to be banned from within 200 feet of the water wanted to know if they would get sewers.

Getting answers and finally signature on a $17.8 million contract with D’Ambra took years, countless meetings and a revamping of sewer authority procedures.  While embraced by many, the effort also met with resistance from homeowners who saw no need for sewers and argued for alternatives which they said were less costly. The tipping point came when Mayor Frank Picozzi promised individual sewer assessments would be locked in at $16,900 and he had $7 million in federal funding to make it happen.

Might assessments be even less given the input of federal funds and that, so far, costs are running to budget?

Rogers points out that the actual cost of the Bayside project is closer to $25 million given design and engineering changes and the cost of archeological surveys. Additionally, she noted the capped $16,900 assessment has also been applied to the recently completed smaller Governor Francis Farms and O’Donnell Hill sewer extensions.

Bayside, sewers


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