They definitely have a dirty job, but the men handling the city’s biggest sewer break in years worked overnight and were still at it Tuesday afternoon, determined to keep as much sewage as they could away from businesses and residents.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality notified the public Tuesday that the Industrial Seaway and Bayou Bernard, from U.S. 49 to the mouth of Gulfport Lake, are unsafe for physical contact or fishing because of breaks in two pressurized sewer lines. The city estimates about 500,000 gallons of sewage has spilled.
Wayne Miller, Gulfport’s public works director, said a break in a 24-inch pressurized pipe at Crossroads Parkway and Three Rivers Road was fixed within a couple of hours of being reported to the city around 5 p.m. Monday. The break poured raw sewage into Bayou Bernard
A second break, in a pressurized pipe the same size, has been more difficult to fix because the pipe is 7 feet underground on Glascock Drive in the Bernard Bayou Industrial District. City inspector Brian Jones and six workers from Utility Partners have been on site since late Monday afternoon.
They won’t leave, Miller said.
“They're hard workers,” he said. “It's a project they started on and they want to see it through to completion, especially with a major issue like this.”
Robert Cooley, 52, is a construction crew foreman for Utility Partners and one of those dedicated workers.
“Once we start something,” he said, “we like to finish it. I’ve always been one, if I start it, I want to see it done right. It just gives me better satisfaction for the job I do.”
The men were pumping sewage from the big, muddy hole where the pipe sat into tankers mounted on trucks. They had four trucks on hand. Once one tanker is full, another hooks up. The waste is delivered to the Harrison County treatment plant in the industrial district.
Cooley said the crew was waiting on parts from New Orleans to repair the leak. The parts had arrived Tuesday afternoon. Once the crew got the hole dried out, some of them men were prepared to climb down and repair the pipe.
Cooley’s hard-working overnight crew included truck driver William Felton, superintendent Cephus Finklea, lift-station manager Lyle Smith, lift-station operator Jesse Bosage and lift station supervisor John Garrison.
Cooley said the men find themselves working long hours once in awhile.
“That’s part of it,” he said. “That’s part of the job.”
Don’t worry, Miller said, the men didn’t miss any meals. They wanted hamburgers from McDonald’s for dinner Monday. Breakfast and lunch were delivered Tuesday.
The end appeared to be in sight Tuesday afternoon. But, rest assured, Cooley and his men aren’t leaving until the job is finished.