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It is no secret that the nation’s water infrastructure is aging—and not aging well. Many historic communities are at a crossroads with their water and wastewater utilities, and Camden, S.C., is one of them.
Founded in 1786, Camden is known as “South Carolina’s Oldest Inland City.” With century-old utilities, the historic neighborhoods of downtown Camden desperately needed replacements, and the city’s engineers and contractors came to the rescue.
Under Project Blackhawk, the city is replacing the water, sewer, electrical and street systems in a single coordinated effort. The water, wastewater, storm water, street and electrical utilities worked together to completely renovate the system without interrupting service to its customers, which include a local hospital.
Much of the system is located in the rear of private properties, making access difficult for operations and maintenance, as well as for renovation activities. Furthermore, because the homes in the historic district were built between 1900 and 1923, no accurate as-built plans exist, requiring the design team to rely on the institutional knowledge of the city staff, with field investigation as confirmation.
Based on inspection of the sewer system’s condition and location, it is pipe-burst, lined, or open-cut and replaced with PVC pipe. In areas where sewer remediation is required, all non-PVC water mains also are replaced. Simultaneously, the city is improving electrical services by moving them below ground. Once the improvements are complete, the city will pave the streets and repair the curb, gutter, sidewalk and storm water system.
“Conducting a project of this nature—working with two general contractors, relocating existing utilities in the roadways, as well as backyards, while maintaining service to our customers—is a challenge,” said Ray Peterson, P.E., deputy director for public works for the city of Camden. “Seeing all the available technologies, such as trenching, cured-in-place lining, pipe bursting and boring, on one job, located in a historic community in the oldest inland city in South Carolina, is an exceptional opportunity.”
Camden’s historic features extend beyond its infrastructure. A Tree City USA community, many of Camden’s trees are also a century old. To protect the neighborhood’s trees, the city used trenchless technologies where possible, and the contractors exercised caution.
In addition, because of Camden’s historical significance, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control issued construction permits to ensure that the South Carolina Department of Archives and History is notified should crews discover any archaeological remains.
Despite the challenges of renovating a historic community, the completed project will provide consistent, uninterrupted, reliable service to the city’s residents for decades with minimal operations and maintenance.
“Keeping up with infrastructure improvements is essential to the integrity of a city,” Peterson said. “We are pleased that the Camden city leaders have recognized the importance of this project.”