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NEI Leak Repaired

By Gary Popp and Megan V. Williams

Wilmington, NC – More stormy weather in the forecast for the coming days encouraged crews to push ahead with late night repairs, despite steady rain.

Crews installed a permanent stainless steel band over the three-inch-wide hole, which had opened up in a previously-repaired section of the pipe.

This portion of the Northeast Interceptor has had trouble in the past, and one resident in the surrounding neighborhood says he just wants to see the leak-prone pipe fixed for good.

"I don't have problems with the idea that things break, because they do," he said, "but it is a little discouraging to see the same type of break in the same area, and apparently it's going to be a lot of wastewater down in the creek again."

Ed Beck, regional supervisor for North Carolina's Department of Water Quality, is also disappointed.

Beck said Tuesday that this latest break will definitely influence considerations of whether to lift a moratorium on sewer hook-ups imposed after another spill earlier this year.

The city completed mandated repairs in October and had asked the department to lift ban on new connections. Beck's department was in the process of requesting more information from the city.

Beck predicts he'll make a decision by next month on whether to extend the moratorium.

The Pine Grove Road spill, Beck said, "does again raise the question about reliability and the fact that there are no alternatives once a spill does occur on the Northeast Interceptor."

Wilmington is planning a back-up line to the NEI, but that project is still several years from completion.

The city estimates a 655,000 gallons of wastewater escaped into Hewlett's Creek during the spill.