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Sinkhole reopens on Burlington's Battery Street - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sinkhole reopens on Burlington's Battery Street

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

It started small and got bigger and bigger. The sinkhole that snarled traffic on Burlington's busy Battery Street reopened Tuesday afternoon, and WCAX News caught it on camera.

"We thought we fixed something yesterday. There's always a possibility there's more to it that we couldn't see it," said Steve Goodkind of Burlington Public Works.

Tuesday's hole was smaller than the gaping gash that opened Monday.

"The only good thing about it is it made us look in the manhole to see what was going on," Goodkind said.

What they found Monday-- a sewer service cut and abandoned back during the Urban Renewal project in the 1960s. Goodkind says that undermined the area slowly over time. But the current sewer pipe liner also failed. It had just been installed two years ago. He says those two factors combined with record rain led to the mess.

"I'm sure that failure was exacerbated by water," Goodkind said.

In Essex Junction, the wet weather means the water treatment plant is processing two to three times the flow it's designed to handle.

"It's been a nightmare," said George Tyler, the Essex Junction village president.

Saturday, when a deluge hit Chittenden County, one of the tanks at the start of the treatment process overflowed, allowing a small amount of untreated sewage to escape.

"The volume coming in couldn't be processed quickly enough," said Jim Jutras, the Essex Junction water quality superintendent.

Essex Junction isn't the only community that's discharged untreated sewage. It's happened in several other places, including Williston, Middlebury and Rutland.

"We're environmentalists, too. We're in this field because we work hard to keep the environment clean and this is the type of thing we don't want to occur," Jutras said.

"It's been constant stress, constant pressure from the rain," Tyler said.

Essex Junction is in the middle of a $16 million treatment plant upgrade. But Tyler says the recent storms convince him it's time to look at other possible changes.

"So, we probably have to look at a few key areas where we are able to expand and handle more flow," Tyler said.

"Just a whole toxic soup if you will," said Ross Sexton of Lake Champlain International.

Lake Champlain International-- an environmental and sportsmen's advocacy group-- argues there's a connection between water quality and aging or inadequate infrastructure.

"In the 60s we used to invest 3 percent of our GDP in infrastructure. Today, it's less than 1 percent," Sexton said.

In Burlington, the immediate problem is underground. The treatment plant is handling the flow just fine.

"We'll get it solved today, at least this part of it, but I wish I wasn't here," Goodkind said.

Vt. Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz says the wastewater reaching Lake Champlain and other waterways can contain harmful bacteria, but with all the rain, it dissipates quickly.

Related Story:

Battery Street down to one lane due to sinkhole

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