Getting the hookup

Published 7:39 pm Friday, February 6, 2015

Crittenden, Eclipse prepare for city water, sewer

A large chunk of Crittenden and Eclipse will breathe a collective sigh of relief come April — according to city of Suffolk Public Utilities Director Al Moor, water and sewer mains will finally have arrived.

After the project’s first phase finished up about seven years ago, a contractor has been working on the second and final phase since November 2013, often held up by bad weather, especially during the winter months.

Wigneil Street, one of several streets in the communities of Crittenden and Eclipse included in a city project to connect mains to water and sewer, which is scheduled to be completed in April.

Wigneil Street, one of several streets in the communities of Crittenden and Eclipse included in a city project to connect mains to water and sewer, which is scheduled to be completed in April.

The project has tested the patience of residents in the back section of Eclipse, between Pike Point on Chuckatuck Creek and Barrel Point on the Nansemond River, where about 10 streets have been torn up for the project.

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“I’m happy for it, but I’m not real happy with the mess. It’s been a mess for over a year,” George Hester said Wednesday, gazing toward a Dixon Road that heavy machinery has pummeled.

In summertime it was the dust. When it was wet, mud. “You couldn’t clean your car enough,” Hester said. “We will be glad to see it all done.”

Many are happy for what they see as real progress: Goodbye to failing septic systems, hello to properly paved streets with concrete curb and gutter. But at least one resident isn’t so sure.

Miriam Syme has lived on Bleakhorn Drive for the past 56 years, and she rues the day in 1974 when Nansemond County and the city of Suffolk merged, bringing her community under the city’s jurisdiction.

“I’m of a mind to have kept us Eclipse and never gotten involved with the city of Suffolk,” Syme said.

The North Suffolk project is one of 23 to extend sewer and water undertaken by the city since 1994, according to Moore. Three of those — Crittenden/Eclipse as well as Turlington Park and Lake Speight — are ongoing after being petitioned back in the early 2000s then deferred when the economy soured.

The city petitions prospective projects after first receiving a letter of interest, then looking at the long-range plan for capital improvements and deciding if they could be accommodated, Moor said.

For a project to progress, a petition response rate of at least 51 percent is required, with two-thirds or more respondents being supportive. The petition is sent to each improved property.

In Crittenden/Eclipse, according to Moor, residents agreed to connection charges totaling $1,305, after an environmental incentive reimbursement for disconnecting septic tanks and hooking up to the city system.

Here, it starts to get a bit technical: On the end of two of the streets in phase 2 — Dixon Road and Wigneil Street — the contactor had to “run a small force main” because the lay of the land means the wastewater has to be pumped up hill, Moore said.

Those residents would require a private grinder pump, so the city code does not require them to connect. But for all those with gravity on their side, it’s mandatory.

The Canada household on Wigneil Street is happy to connect. “We’ve lived here since 1979, and we’re delighted to have (city) water and sewer come through here,” Sandy Canada said.

A lot of the septic systems, theirs included, have failed over the years because of the poor-draining clay soil, she said.

It’s not as much of a problem for Sandy and Jesse Canada now that their three daughters have left home. But before, all that showering caused headaches with their two-drain-field system.

The idea of the double fields was to switch from one to the other about every two years, Sandy Canada said. But in reality, they had to flip as often as every two months.

“That’s because the clay wouldn’t let the moisture drain through,” she said. Her husband added: “You don’t just get up in the morning and take all the showers you want and wash all the clothes you want.”

In all, according to Moor, the entire project will see 268 new connections to the city system, at a total cost of $12 million.

“It was an area that was experiencing some failing septic systems,” Moore said, adding that disconnecting those private systems “does protect the environment.”

Meanwhile, last decade, the city acquired more than a dozen community well systems serving Crittenden/Eclipse, most of which the state had cited for excessive fluoride levels.

The wells themselves were taken offline and the pipes connected to the city mains, thus overcoming a health hazard that would have been too costly for the private well owners to deal with.

The old wells have been “properly abandoned,” Moor said, and often the city has been able to use some of the old infrastructure and the land it sits on.

For instance, during this final phase of the water and sewer mains project, the property three of the wells sat on has been used for sewer pump stations, and a small portion of the pipe infrastructure of an old well system on Wigneil Street has been reused as mains waterline, Moor said.

But for Syme, none of it was necessary. “They were all very special water,” she said of the old wells. “It was deep, artesian water — very clean, very soft.”

“None of us wanted to go on city water,” she added. “But I suppose to have the sewer system, you have to have city water.”