Town of Hilton Head repairs pipes causing sinkholes in Sea Pines

dburley@islandpacket.comSeptember 3, 2014 

Workers for Utility Asset Management, Inc., of Georgia, work on the Lawton Canal storm water pump station in Sea Pines on Sept. 3, 2014. The work involves draining the pumps, clearing debris, filling leaks and re-routing the pipes underneath Greenwood Drive at the Lawton Canal station, as well as using a 2-inch concrete liner inside the new pipes.

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The Town of Hilton Head Island is repairing stormwater pipes in Sea Pines that have caused a section of Greenwood Drive to crumble, town engineers said Wednesday.

Contracted crews from Utility Asset Management Inc. of Georgia will patch three pipes beneath the road. The 48-inch-wide pipes have separated at the joints and allowed dirt to seep in and wash away, forming several sinkholes -- each about a foot wide -- beside and on the street.

"If the pipes are not repaired, these voids will continue to grow in size, taking more soil from beneath the road bed and ultimately leading to failure of the road," town stormwater manager Bryan McIlwee said.

Town engineer Jeff Buckalew said the road's collapse doesn't appear imminent, but the town has "been monitoring the situation."

The pipes connect to the Lawton Canal pump station, which helps drain stormwater from Sea Pines and Forest Beach.

Officials said the prospect of faulty pipes during hurricane season made the sinkholes a pressing concern.

"This won't get better on its own," said Sea Pines Community Services Association president Bret Martin. "Depending on weather, rain and runoff, more damage could be done."

CSA alerted the town to the sinkholes in June.

This summer, workers lifted three stormwater pumps so cameras could investigate the pipes. When removing the pumps, they noticed the brackets holding them in place had corroded. Those brackets will also be replaced, Buckalew said.

The project is estimated to cost $350,000, according to chief town engineer Scott Liggett. Work will be completed next month.

About $155,000 will come from money set aside for stormwater maintenance in Sea Pines. Another $195,000 will come from the town's general stormwater fund, according to McIlwee. The town keeps about $3.45 million a year for stormwater services.

Since 2001, the town has increased stormwater services for gated communities. It started services in Sea Pines in 2012, town manager Steve Riley said.

As federal stormwater regulations grew more stringent, Town Council felt "having a comprehensive, coordinated stormwater utility system would be the best way to go," he said.

"The agreement with Sea Pines recognizes that updating the pumps benefits Sea Pines and the areas outside Sea Pines."

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