Oscar Renda - Southland Contracting Inc. JV – Deep Rock Tunnel Connector Pump Station

Southland picSouthland Contracting’s tunneling expertise is helping Indianapolis deal with sewer overflow issues.

By Chris Petersen

Dealing with wastewater is one of civilization’s oldest problems, and it continues to be a major concern in growing municipalities where outdated infrastructure and rising demands call for big solutions. For example, consider the work being done under the streets of Indianapolis right now, as Citizens Water undertakes its largest sewer overflow project to date, the $1.6 billion Long Term Control Plan. Expected to be completed by 2025, the completed project will meet federal requirements to curb the overflow of raw sewage into local rivers and streams by building a 25-mile combined sewer overflow collection system consisting of numerous tunnels and pumping stations. 

A critical phase of this ambitious project is the construction of the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector Pump Station, which will address one of the city’s largest overflow points, and will carry raw sewage to Citizens Water’s treatment plants through 2025. The Deep Rock Tunnel Connector Pump Station consists of nearly 180 feet of 6-foot-diameter connector tunnel as well as a 60-foot-by-98-foot subterranean pumping room and a main access shaft as well as several at-grade facilities. Southland box

A project as complex and technical as the pump station requires the skill of multiple contractors with very distinct capabilities and experience. Handling the tunneling portion of the project is Texas-based Southland Contracting Inc. (SCI), one of the most accomplished tunneling contractors in the nation. SCI Project Manager Jose Castillo says joining SCI on the project team are joint-venture partner Oscar Renda and numerous other contractors with specialized experience, and the combination of their expertise makes the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector Pump Station project very unique. “It’s typical work for each entity, but not typical to have a project that has the mechanical and also the tunneling aspects,” Castillo says.

Fully Experienced

Drilling for the project fits perfectly within SCI’s experience, according to Castillo, because the company’s history in tunneling is second-to-none. “Southland Contracting, over the last 10 years, has tunneled more linear feet in the United States than any other company,” Castillo says, and the company estimates that it has successfully installed three-quarters of a million linear feet of tunnel in the United States and Canada.

SCI says its capabilities range from digging utility tunnels only 30 inches in diameter to tunnels that serve as underground highways up to 50 feet wide and 35 feet high. The level of experience that SCI brings to the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector Pump Station project has been a significant factor in keeping the project on track so far, Castillo says, noting that the superintendent on the project has more than 35 years of experience in tunneling. “So it’s a perfect fit,” he says.

Because SCI is a “perfect fit” for the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector Pump Station project, it has been able to leverage its expertise in order to stay out in front of some of the more challenging aspects of the project. “The most challenging aspect has been working through the winter months because of the rushed schedule,” Castillo says.

Nevertheless, SCI has proven that it has the capability to overcome a challenge like this. Castillo says the company kept the work on schedule by utilizing special heating equipment to keep the shafts and the tunneling equipment from freezing.

Needed Improvements

The need for the entire Long Term Control Plan for Indianapolis is critical for the overall quality of life and ecological health of the city’s waterways. According to Citizens Water, the city’s combined storm and wastewater sewer system is overtaxed, and raw sewage can overflow into local rivers and streams when as little as a quarter-inch of rain falls. The Long Term Control Plan was put into place after mandates from the EPA as well as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Once the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector Pump Station is completed, additional storage tunnels will be extended to create an underground storage system that will store excess sewage and carry it to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Citizens Water says this system will drastically reduce the amount of sewage that spills over into local waterways during heavy storms. The completion of the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector project will be another impressive addition to SCI’s portfolio when completed. 

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