At the Fourth Street and Watco Trail intersection, the sights and sounds were akin to something out of a strange movie.

At the Fourth Street and Watco Trail intersection, the sights and sounds were akin to something out of a strange movie.

A rhythmic tong-tong-tong-tong beat like a war drum for hours. At the same time, a nearly 500-foot long line slowly slithered like a giant black eel deep underground.

What it meant was that a new sewer line was going into place to provide improved sewer access for almost half of the town.

Earlier this year, Pittsburg Public Utilities Director John Bailey explained that inspections of the existing sewer lines showed that repair was badly needed. The project will extend from Georgia and First streets northeast to Fourth Street.

“It is quite old. It’s probably one of the first sewer lines in Pittsburg,” Bailey said at a city commission meeting. “The clay pipe is cracked, and we’re finding it could be restricting flow. We need to repair it before it causes major problems. Sooner or later, it’d plug up completely.”

That is what called for the work done on Wednesday. Although the project sounded like a drum and looked like an eel, it was actually like a larger scale version of heart surgery, or more specifically, angioplasty.

The project starts with a 500-foot plastic pipe and involves a winch on one end and a hydraulic hammer of sorts on the other end. The winch and hammer work together to pull the line through, simultanously breaking and expanding the existing clay pipe while replacing it with the new plastic pipe.

The project is being done by Jim Radell Construction at a cost of $125,847.10 to the city.

Sewer officials said that the city has replaced 12” pipe in this manner before, but this is the first 18” pipe the city has replaced with the “bursting” technique.

The plastic pipe arrives in 50-foot segments, meaning that crews had to effectively weld the ends together on-site in preparation for the project earlier this week.

While the clay pipe had lasted decades, sewer officials hoped that the new pipe could last more than a century.

“It’s supposed to last 50 years, but I think it’ll probably last more like 100 years,” said Bob Gilmore, city sewer collection supervisor. “The plastic is a high density polyethylene. It shouldn’t break or crack. With the ground movement around here, we’re notorious for that in the area. This has fewer joints, and they are all welded together every 40-50 feet. Hopefully, there’s no room for tree roots to get into it. Tree roots are one of our biggest problems.”

Andrew Nash can be reached at or by calling 231-2600 ext. 140.