First St. sewer project causes confusion

Photo courtesy of Gilroy Public Works

Dirty dishes and dirty clothes may be piling up in First Street homes and restaurants for a few days.

Gilroy city officials today were attempting to clarify communications to business owners and residents about the First Street sewer project that began Aug.1 appeared to have caused widespread confusion and anxiety.

The sewer pipe upgrade project could continue through Saturday, Aug. 4, and the city scrambled today to clarify the scope, goals and timeline of the construction.
Julie Behzad, project manager for the First St. sewer project, this afternoon tried to assure business owners that the re-lining of a sewer main should not last longer than two days.

She said that despite what Insituform, the company completing the project, said on signs left for businesses along the busy route, a major commercial thoroughfare, this week’s work will not result in a complete shutoff of water—toilets can be flushed. However, Behzad said businesses and patrons will not be able to use dishwashers, clothes washers or similar water-intensive appliances from 7pm to 7am.

The Insituform signs—which Behzad contradicted with her statements— said: “While the work is being performed, your sewer service connection will be temporarily sealed off… to prevent water from escaping through any drain during the specified time period, turn off sump pumps which are connected to the sewer service and please do not wash clothes or dishes, take showers or baths or flush toilets.”

Behzad said she understood that some residents were confused by the city’s conflicting messages.

Behzad said work on the project began last week, but did not immediately affect residents.

Behzad acknowledged in an interview that there has been some confusion between the city and the public about the impact of the project.

This week’s work is not part of larger waterline improvements, which will take place in the coming months.

The project manager said she expects the sewer main work to last from 7pm to 7am, and hopes it will be completed by Friday morning, Aug. 3. She said the waterline project, set to happen along the same street, would not be taking place till the new year.

“Nobody’s water would get impacted until early next year, unless there’s an emergency,” said Behzad.

A meeting between projects leads, Aug. 2, addressed the conflicting information and community confusion, Behzad said. She said the city was still working on a plan to clarify the specifics of the project for residents.

The Insituform sign said the lining would be performed Aug. 1, Behzad has said the work will continue through the morning of Aug. 3, possibly Aug. 4.

Laura Cunningham, head of community outreach for the project told the Dispatch in an email statement that going forward there will be continued efforts to keep the public informed of the project.

A public meeting is being planned for late August to invite the public to learn more about the water line project,” said Cunningham. “Notification will be mailed and newspaper ads will be placed.”

More information on the projects can be found at https://yourvoice.cityofgilroy.org/1st-street

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