“That’s not water they’re standing in,” said Tim Brunson, assistant director of Rome’s water and sewer division, as he showed pictures of crews replacing the failed sewer main under Branham Avenue.

It took nearly three months of work — 3,200 man hours — and $100,000 in materials alone but, on Monday, the team appeared before the Rome City Commission for formal thanks.

“They went above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen. I’m so amazed. So grateful,” said City Commissioner Evie McNiece, who chairs the board’s water and sewer committee.

Commissioner Milton Slack noted that if Brunson hadn’t spotted a tiny hole forming in the pavement one day, the concrete pipe corroded by hydrogen sulfide gas would eventually have breached underground. Raw sewage would have poured unchecked into the Coosa River.

“That could have cost us a lot more than it did,” Slack said.

City Manager Sammy Rich said it was dangerous and frustrating work, with the next section crumbling as the previous one was replaced. But the city employees assigned to the task kept showing up to work in a lengthening trench 5 feet wide and 16 feet deep.

“With temperatures in the upper 90s, they were wearing chest waders, raincoats, face shields and breathing apparatus,” Brunson said. “They worked and worked and worked.”

The 50-year-old concrete main was cut up and replaced with new PVC pipe, which is not affected by the acid created when hydrogen sulfide gas formed in wastewater collection systems mixes with moisture.

Recognized individually at the board’s meetings were:

♦ Operations supervisor David Redden;

♦ Crew foremen Brad Casey, Edmond Jones and Scott Gamble;

♦ Heavy equipment operators Lamar Nelson, Jeff Farmer, Chris Owens, Alan McCarley, Eugene Creamer, Brian Justice, Donovan Bagley, Kenneth Timms, Michael Lofton, Jacob Fortune, James Fentress, Joseph Redding and Jamie Duncan;

♦ Crew leaders Richard Tucker and James Rayburn;

♦ Maintenance foreman Brian Whiteman and his crew Willie Sindorf and Richard Pension.

Brunson also noted that Street Department Director Chad Hampton ensured that the road was patched as soon as the new main was ready.