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'Micro tunneling' under Wharncliffe Road will open capacity for development

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The City of London has brought in a massive drilling machine to tunnel under Wharncliffe Road.

It is part of a $7.3 million project.

“This micro tunneling machine is doing a section of this trunk sewer underneath Wharncliffe Road so that we can get this put in without any disruption to people using Wharncliffe,” explained Ashley Rammeloo, London’s director of water, wastewater and stormwater.

She continued, “It's part of an overall project to increase the trunk sewer size that goes between the Downtown and Greenway Wastewater Treatment Plant. This is important because it accommodates housing, infill and intensification in the downtown, as well as along Wellington Road and the rapid transit corridor. But it also takes more wet weather flow during those big rainstorms.”

The machine, belonging to Erritt Construction, has 10 cutting disks and is estimated to weigh more than 80,000 lbs and is worth more than $2 million.

Matt Poulias, site engineer with Erritt Construction, shows off the size of the massive drilling machine that will be used to tunnel under Wharncliffe Road in London, Ont. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“The head of the machine here, which is you can see in the red, it'll rotate slowly,” said Matt Poulias, site engineer for Erritt Construction.

“What ends up happening is, is we feed fresh water up into the system. The fresh water breaks up all the ground in front of the machine, and then the excavating machine falls into the head, and then it gets excavated through our slurry valves, sent back to the feeder separation plant where they get separated from our water. The solids get placed into our muck pit, and the water basically gets re-introduced back into the system to have a continuous flow,” he explained.

London Mayor Josh Morgan called it “a really important project” as it will triple the capacity from the area east of Wharncliffe Road to the Greenway Waste Treatment Plant.

The City of London is tunneling under Wharncliffe Road as part of a $7.3 million project. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“There’s a bottleneck to get between downtown and the Greenway plant,” said Morgan.

He continued, “It creates all sorts of challenges for us for infill development. It also creates challenges when we have heavy rain storms and water flows where we know that we run over capacity within the existing infrastructure and creates issues of flowing over into the stormwater system, and we can have overruns at the plant. So this is one of the steps for us to make it better environmental decisions, open up capacity and density for residential development as well.” 

A micro tunneling machine will be lowered into this hole as they will drill across Wharncliffe Road in London, Ont. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

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