A $3 million project to upgrade a water main across the Mobile-Tensaw Delta has hit an unexpected snag and work has been temporarily stopped, according to a Mobile Area Water and Sewer System spokeswoman.

The project, which involves installing an 18-inch ductile iron pipe, was halted after the project’s casing pipe collapsed, MAWSS spokeswoman Barbara Shaw wrote in an email.

“The permanent repairs called for 3,000 feet of 36-inch steel casing to be pulled through a directionally drilled bore nearly 90 feet under the river,” she wrote. “When contractors pulled the casing through, the casing pipe collapsed.
This stopped work on the project until contractors could determine why the collapse occurred and how the problem will be corrected.”

While work has been halted, Shaw said she believes it could begin again as early as next week, once the contractor figures out what caused the issue. Any additional cost should be incurred by the contractor, she said before the meeting of the MAWSS Board of Commissioners Sept. 11.

“MAWSS expects the contractor to identify a path forward in the next few days,” Shaw wrote.

The project became necessary in January when there was a failure in a segment of pipe carrying water across the causeway from Mobile to Spanish Fort. The failure caused a service disruption for roughly 30 customers, including several area restaurants. MAWSS replaced the bad line with a temporary solution above and at the waterline, which is still in place.

In April, the board approved a contract with Construction Labor Services for a total of $3,071,089.41 to replace one segment of ductile iron pipe at one boring, which is directional drilling underneath the water.

The initial bid, which was opened in late February, was for more than $5 million and included more segments and a second boring. In order to move forward with the lower-cost option, the board had to approve a change order eliminating the second boring.

In addition to the work on the single boring and segment, the contract includes work on installing emergency connection stub-outs for easier bypasses if there is another rupture, MAWSS Assistant Director Doug Cote said at the time.

Following the recommendation of staff, the board voted to reject a number of bids to increase the line size due to a lack of funding. While a number of bids came in for the work, they ranged from $4.3 million to $23 million. Commissioners ultimately went with a cheaper option based on staff recommendations.

In other business, the board discussed the possibility of a one-time bonus for retirees, which would cost $127,024 for all 225 retirees. Commissioners asked for more information on the proposal to possibly put it on the October agenda. The proposal must be approved by Oct. 31.