ORANGE PARK – Dudley Branch residents may have noticed a large bladder-like bag filling the creekside ditches, and despite how strange they look, they’re helping to solve Orange Park’s water …
ORANGE PARK – Dudley Branch residents may have noticed a large bladder-like bag filling the creekside ditches, and despite how strange they look, they’re helping to solve Orange Park’s water maintenance problem.
Over the past few months, the town of Orange Park has been pursuing a number of grants to help fund stormwater and wastewater management measures that will help the town’s flooding and buildup problems, problems exacerbated by recent events like Hurricane Irma. These large bags, known as geobags, are one of the first major movements in fixing these problems.
“These geobags are part of a million-dollar grant the town received, and we have to put about $250,000 into it, and they’re basically dredging out Dudley Branch from Kingsley to about Ash Street, which is about a two-mile stretch,” Orange Park Town Manager Sarah Campbell said.
The town hired Gator Dredging to complete this task and the company currently is utilizing three geobags. All three geobags are connected to a hydraulic pump and it’s the pumps that make the geobags work.
The Gator Dredging crew members wear full wetsuits vacuuming the bottom of the creek to free up the muck sitting at the bottom that prevents water from flowing, Campbell said. The muck is then sucked up into the geobags by the pump.
“The geobags are perforated so all of the water filters out and drains back into the creek, and all of the mud, muck and sad stays in the bag,” Campbell said.
To help the perforation process, workers are tasked with walking along the top of the geobag, which helps push the water out. If you passed by the Dudley Branch area today, you’d likely see a worker walking back and forth along the geobags.
After the water has been filtered out, the process still is not yet done. After about three to four weeks, the muck within will dry and workers will cut the bag open, scoop out the insides and haul it off.
While dredging has been done in Orange Park before, she’s not sure that any dredging of this scale has ever occurred. For that reason, she hopes the town won’t have to do this too often.
“I think the town really needed this with all that’s occurred in the past, but I’m hoping that moving forward, dredging on this caliber isn’t necessary,” Campbell said. “This dredging will go a long way.”
Orange Park Council Member Connie Thomas got a chance to go out and see these geobags in action with Campbell and Public Works Director Chuck Pavlos. According to her, the process was so much more than she ever imagined.
“I saw the equipment going in, but when I saw that there were workers in wetsuits hand vacuuming everything, I realized just how much work was being put in to alleviate the water problems of Dudley Branch,” Thomas said. “It’s just so fascinating to get out there and see all of this in action.”
The geobags made their way into Orange Park in January. Since the grant funding them came with an April 11 deadline, Campbell said residents can expect this dredging process to end in April as well.
After that, the town will continue with its larger plan of action for tackling its stormwater maintenance problems.
Currently, the town has commissioned a flow model from Gainesville-based water engineering firm Jones-Edmunds which will indicate where work needs to be focused next.
“[The flow model] will tell us where we have hit capacity, where we need more dredging, where we need more pipes and just where our biggest problems lie,” Campbell said.