RUMFORD — Work is expected to start Thursday to replace culverts under South Rumford Road and a driveway near Hall Hill Road.

Currently, the Maine Department of Transportation has filled in one side of a big washout there from severe thunderstorms on July 2 that blew out the road, exposing a gas line and two sewer lines.

Temporary traffic signals were installed at both ends of South Rumford Road near the washout with only one lane open to handle traffic.

Hall Hill Road, which was heavily damaged by the July 2 storms, remains closed to through traffic. The storms dumped up to six inches of rain on the area in one to two hours, blowing out several roads and culverts that weren’t designed to handle that much water in such a short time.

It was labeled a 100-year storm.

“We’ve been getting 100-year storms every week now, but fortunately, it hasn’t hit in the same place,” Reggie Knowles, the MDOT transportation resource manager in Dixfield, said on Wednesday afternoon.

“The weather patterns have changed tremendously since I was a kid,” he said.

Their South Rumford Road work is expected to take at least a month to repair. Knowles said the damage would have been worse had not the Rumford Public Works crew been out doing ditching work before the July 2 storm hit.

The flash-flood leaned a manhole under the road over and bent the sewer pipes like snakes. Knowles said a town crew has been working at the site to straighten the manhole and the pipes.

He said the road was blown out because the heavy rains opened up a huge crater on Hall Hill Road, which steeply descends to South Rumford Road.

All of that sediment was swept down a blown-out stream and through the woods before running into and immediately clogging two 30-inch-diameter culverts under and beside the driveway into the former Mount Zircon Spring Water Co. bottling plant. 

It also ran into the MDOT’s 3-foot-diameter by 56-foot-long culvert under South Rumford Road, clogging it, too. Water and debris then overswept the road, scouring out a huge hole and exposing the gas line and the gravity-fed and flow sewer pipes.

What’s been holding up the work is getting permission from the property owner of the bottling plant land and driveway. Knowles said he was told that one person owned the land, and then the town owned the land, but the town says it doesn’t own the land.

“We’d like to take those out and replace them with bigger pipes, because those pipes clogged first,” Knowles said.

The larger pipes are 4 feet in diameter and 70 feet long.

Over the Fourth of July, MDOT had four crews working the site, but now they’re down to a crew from Bethel

To date, the MDOT has fixed eroded sections on Wyman Hill and South Rumford roads with more than 3,000 yards of dirt and gravel, Knowles said.

There is still much work to be done to get Rumford’s damaged roads filled in and paved, but he said crews must first get the roads smoothed out so they can then be paved.

“We’re gaining on it,” Rumford Public Works Superintendent Andy Russell said Wednesday afternoon of making repairs to the many town roads damaged on July 2. Public Works road projects planned for this summer are on hold until the storm damage is repaired.

But some of the MDOT’s planned roadwork is just starting. Russell said he attended an MDOT preconstruction meeting Wednesday for upcoming work to grind pavement and repave Veterans Street by the Rumford paper mill, Lincoln and Rumford avenues and Hancock Street.

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