It’s not unusual to see big trucks on Altama Avenue in Brunswick, but one might call 30 feet a little excessive.

Nevertheless, the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer needed such a truck to replace some underground utility pipes along the road on Monday.

Most of the sewer system on Altama Avenue consists of brick manholes and clay pipes, and the utility is keen on replacing about 4,300 feet of the worst of it. Priority was initially placed on an ongoing sewer project in the Sea Palms neighborhood on St. Simons Island, but the contractor, IPR Southeast, took a temporary detour to a section of the mainland street in poor repair.

“We jumped on Altama because there was a part on P Street that needed attention,” said Jason Vo, JWSC project manager.

Going the traditional route would have required tearing up the asphalt across the busy thoroughfare, including the wide grass median, at the P Street junction.

Rather than digging up the road, removing old pipes and laying new ones — an expensive and none-too- popular proposition — the utility opted to hire a company proficient in cured-in-place pipe, or CIPP. Before curing, the pipe looks like a very long sleeve. A knot is tied in one end, inserted into an existing pipe at a manhole and inflated until it reaches the next one.

“It’s like a sock,” said Ulysses Franklin, a superintendent with IPR. “We turn it inside out in the pipe.”

Finally, 190-degree water is used to cure the pipe. The resin inside sets into something like PVC pipe, which Vo said has a lifespan of around 50 years.

The weather in Southeast Georgia doesn’t make the job easy. High heat causes the resin in the CIPP to cure, so keeping the sleeves cool is essential. A refrigerated box truck does the trick, but it doesn’t keep the workers, many wearing masks, any cooler, Franklin said.

While not the highest on the list, Altama Avenue has been a priority area for the JWSC for some time, said administration director Jay Sellers. Clay pipe cracks easy, especially after 70-plus years, and grease build-up severely restricts the efficiency of the system.

“We actually have one where debris is stuck in the pipe, meaning illegal dumping. Concrete,” Sellers said.

The pipe had to be cleaned before the CIPP could go in, Sellers said, but leaving it at that would have been a short-term solution at best given the material it was made of.

After Tuesday, the contractors planned to return to Sea Palms to finish out the project there, hopefully by the end of August. Exactly when they’ll be back Vo couldn’t say, but when they do, the distinctive steam truck will move from intersection to intersection about once a day.

The project on Altama is expected to wrap up by September, and combined with the Sea Palms work — which is under the same contract with IPR — will cost around $600,000.

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