Lakebottom sewer repairs have Cherokee and 17th Street blocked at the park

Several roads around Lakebottom Park will be blocked all week as the Columbus Water Works scrambles to fix a crumbling sewer line that runs along Weracoba Creek.

The work has a portion of Cherokee Avenue in front of Columbus High School closed, as well as 17th Street from 18th Avenue to the Columbus High baseball field.

Cars are being detoured around the construction site.

“With Columbus High out on spring break this week, out goal is to push it and minimize the impact,” said Water Works Vice President for Engineering and Field Services Steve Davis.

The work, which is disrupting normal traffic around the heavily-used city park, could be finished by the end of the week, but Davis was not ready to commit to that.

“It could go into early next week,” Davis said.

The issue surfaced 10 days ago during heavy rains. Sewage backed up in pipes along the creek, causing it to come flooding out of manholes on Cherokee and surrounding streets. The center of the problem is with a line buried nearly 20 feet deep at the northwest corner of Cherokee and 17th.

Work started on the line late last week. The damage to the line was more extensive that Water Works officials previously thought, President Bob Tant said.

“We knew it wasn’t in good shape,” Tant said. “Once we started digging around the sewer, we started discovering additional problems. But nothing has really surprised us.”

Repairing a line that deep is delicate work, Tant said.

“You have to be careful about cave-ins,” he said. “And I am not only talking about the personnel, but you to keep it from collapsing and causing a larger issue.”

The work will move into Cherokee and 17th in the coming days, Davis said.

The Water Works issues are not contained to the Lakebottom area. In the last month, Columbus has received 14.7 inches of rain, 9.1 inches above normal. The heavy rain has exposed the cracks in the city’s aging sewer system.

“We build sewer lines along creeks and in low areas,” Tant said. But the nature of those is they are subject to flooding and taking on ground water.”

Another area where the Water Works is facing issues is along Teak Drive, where 11 homes were flooded last week when water spilled over the Charter Oak watershed lake, one of the 13 such retention ponds the city owns.

“When the drain stopped, water filled up and flooded the sewer line,” Tant said. “We probably have 20 to 30 manholes under water there right now.”

The Water Works has ordered a large pump to help the city drain the watershed and relieve the flooding. That pump should be on site Tuesday, Davis said.