Saturday, November 03, 2001

Pipeline drilling may begin

Water to go under river

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ANDERSON FERRY — Three thousand feet of 36-inch-diameter steel pipe stretches like a giant silver snake along the Kentucky shore here, waiting to be pulled under the Ohio River to become a connection bringing water from Cincinnati to fast-growing Boone County.

        Drilling the 3,000-foot-long hole, which will originate on the Ohio side, could start in a few weeks. But Greater Cincinnati Water Works officials think early 2002 is a more likely starting date.

[photo] A section of the pipe that will be pulled under the Ohio River waits near Dry Creek Road in Boone County.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        “The project has numerous details, and we allowed for a fairly wide window of installation in the contract,” Water Works chief engineer Paul Tomes said Friday.“We want to be certain that all details of the project are given proper attention.”

        When completed by 2003, the water line will carry about 20 million gallons per day from the Cincinnati water facility to Boone County homes and businesses.

        Boone is the second-fastest-growing county in Kentucky, and county and city officials are planning now for water needs over 30 years. Boone County and Florence now get water from the Northern Kentucky Water Service District, but officials estimated that the agreement with Cincinnati will save them about $1 million annually.

        The installation of the pipeline under the Ohio River, which will cost about $2.4 million, is part of a $57 million construction project of more than 30 miles of water main, a pump station, a reservoir and three elevated storage tanks. Boone County and Florence have signed a 29-year agreement with the Water Works.

        Officials had hoped to have drilling completed by now, but as the 40-foot sections of pipe were being welded together at the site near the river, there was concern among engineers about the epoxy coating for the pipe's interior.

        “We went back to the manufacturer, and everything has come around with plans to address the situation and correct any problem with the epoxy,” he said. “We'll see an updated schedule for the project next week.”

        Mr. Tomes said that although it is possible the drilling could start in a few weeks, weather and the upcoming holiday season must be considered.

        “I would think the contractor might hold off until after the first of the year,” he said. “This is a 24-hour-a-day operation once it starts, and you don't want to keep your crews away from their families during the holidays.”

        The drilling procedure, known as horizontal directional drilling, developed by the oil well industry, allows the contractor to guide the drill head 30 feet under the river bottom, through rock and gravel, and up to the Kentucky bank.

        It begins with a 8 3/4-inch diameter pilot hole, and larger diameter drill heads are then used to ream out the hole to a final diameter of 48 inches.

        The process also uses a procedure where Bentonite drilling mud (a slick clay substance) is pumped into the hole as the drill cuts through the soil and rock, maintaining even pressure to prevent collapse and reduce friction. The mixture is pumped out of the hole into a retention reservoir where the Bentonite is refined from the gravel and soil and recycled, while the remaining gravel and soil is then removed to a fill area.

        “The one thing we will have to watch during the winter months is the river level,” Mr. Tomes said. “We have had flooding situations in winter many times in the past here. The large drill site will be far enough up the bank that it would take about a 50-foot level flood to cause a problem, but that's happened before.”

        When the drilling is completed, the drill head will be attached to the steel water main and the pipe will be pulled through the hole from the Kentucky side to the Ohio side.

        A plastic pipe filled with water will be inserted into the water main while it is being pulled through to minimize pipe buoyancy.

        Mr. Tomes said that the entire operation, from the start of drilling to the final pulling of the pipe from one side of the river to the other, should take about three weeks.

        GCWW Director David Rager said the horizontal directional drilling process will save time and money over old methods of digging tunnels under the river. But the old tunnels still serve a purpose.

        “In the 1890s, when Water Works dug the first tunnel under the river to supply our treatment plant, it was dug by hand and took three years,” he said. “The crews used compasses and some guesswork to guide their way. It's pretty amazing that they were only a foot or two off when the two sides met. That tunnel is in excellent condition and we still use it today.”

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