Hughson sewer line troubles impact plant, school

HUGHSON — The city will pay $72,000 to fix a sewer break that affected a private school and briefly shut down a milk plant.

Thom Clark, Hughson's director of planning and building, said a 30-inch sewer pipe collapsed underneath Tully Road on Thursday afternoon. A city crew was digging in the area to fix another sewer problem at a nearby Church of Christ school.

"They went to clean the dirt off the pipe — literally, by hand — and it just disintegrated," Clark said. The pipe, which carried waste water from the Dairy Farmers of America plant to the city's treatment plant, collapsed for at least 60 feet.

Clark said he didn't know how old the pipe was, but it dated back nearly as long as the plant, which he estimated has been open for about 100 years.

The plant, which employs 40 people, shut down Thursday. But spokeswoman Kristi Bell said Friday that it had resumed operations "at restricted discharge levels and is running its regular production schedule."

Forty-five students enrolled in the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade Church of Christ school have been out of class this week, since the school discovered its problem Oct. 2. Classes will resume Monday at the nearby church building, which isn't affected by the line break.

"Our sewer line started backing up, so we had it pumped and checked," said Larry McCoy, minister at Church of Christ. McCoy said his church spent $3,000 on the work.

Clark said the sewer line coming from the school was out of alignment. It runs perpendicular to the line from the Dairy Farmers plant.

Emergency meeting held

McCoy said he was watching the work about 2 p.m. Thursday when the plant's pipe collapsed. Workers were trying to clean it off so they could reach the line running from the church school.

"It was just unreal," he said. "They barely touched it."

City Council members Ben Manley, Matt Beekman and Doug Humphries conducted an emergency meeting Friday afternoon; Mayor Ramon Bawanan participated by phone. They voted 4-0 to spend the money with Clyde Wheeler Pipeline of Oakdale, which has done work for the city before.

The state requires cities to go through a bid process for most projects, but a City Council can directly award a contract if it finds an emergency need to safeguard life, health or property.

The council considered two options: repairing the 60-foot break for $325 per foot or fixing the whole 430-foot line for $169 per foot. Members opted for the bigger project, hoping to stave off a future repair.

"If we fix one part and it breaks again, we're throwing good money after bad," Manley said.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at or 578-2343.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star