Officials from Orange County and Orange Water and Sewer Authority convened Tuesday to address local residents’ concerns after deciding to move forward with low-intensity underground blasting to continue the Rogers Road Area Sewer Project.
The project is an effort to extend sewer lines to the Roger Road area, a historically Black community in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Initially announced in June 2017, construction was expected to last 10-12 months. However, only 62 percent of the sewer system has been installed, and only 34 percent of the system is currently in service.
“We had anticipated to be done around this time, but because of the rock issue and some weather issues, this is where we’re at today,” said Christopher Sandt, a staff engineer for Orange County. “We’re hoping to get the heck out of here by March or April next year.”
Sandt said the primary challenge has been the dense igneous rock impeding their construction on Tallyho Trail in Carrboro. Despite efforts to break the rock with ordinary mechanical methods such as hoe-ramming and rock grinding, engineers now have no choice but fracture the rock through blasting.
“We are going to move forward with controlled rock blasting on this project, and we want to reemphasize what we’re doing here is a very standard procedure for removing rock,” Sandt said.
Sandt said the low-intensity blasting is different, and much milder, than fracking or commercial rock blasting.
“When we first brought this to the public, people had an impression this was dynamite with fire and rocks flying everywhere, and that’s not what this is," he said.
Sandt said these will be controlled, low-impact blasts, as engineers inject energy into the ground in order to fracture the rock, and then workers will proceed to use mechanical tools after the blasting is complete.
Residents within the 500-foot radius of the blasts voiced concerns regarding potential flooding issues, whether their well water would be affected and if trees could potentially fall as a result of the blast.