Armstrong Tract residents lose water after main line accidentally hit
About 80 Armstrong Tract residences were without water for several hours Saturday after a backhoe operator working for the town’s paving contractor hit both the water main and a gas line while digging to install a new drainage system in the neighborhood, a Truckee Donner Public Utility District official said.
The outage left the upper portion of the Armstrong Tract without water from about 9:30 a.m. until just before 1 p.m.
The Armstrong Tract area in which Advanced Asphalt employees were working had been completely and clearly marked through the Underground Service Alert (USA) system required before excavation begins, TDPUD Water Systems Superintendent Ed Taylor said.
During a USA, he said, gas companies, water companies, sewer companies and all other agencies providing vital services through underground means clearly mark the course of their service lines using water soluble paint.
The USA must be completed, as it had been in the Armstrong Tract, before any excavation can be performed.
Some time before Saturday, however, Advanced Asphalt crews had paved over some of the USA markings and failed, as mandated, to request that the area be remarked, Taylor said.
“The contractor hit the water main and a gas line too, which delayed our work even further,” Taylor said.
“Our people couldn’t go in the hole until after the gas lines were repaired.”
Gas line repairs took nearly two hours, he said.
Because Advanced Asphalt did not follow necessary procedures, Taylor said, and because this oversight led to Saturday’s service outage, the company will receive a completely itemized bill from the TDPUD to cover all costs of repairing the damaged line and ensuring public safety and notification.
“We marked everything out,” Taylor said. “They repaved and then didn’t call for a re-mark, which they’re required to do. They bear the entire cost.”
Though Advanced Asphalt will be billed for the entire cost of service line repairs, company representatives contend that workers had not paved over USA markings, and were not negligent in any way.
“The USA marks are still visible and the location of the water line was known at the time of the breakage,” Advanced Asphalt Superintendent Kevin Riley said. “However, in the course of removing an adjacent boulder, the line was damaged. All local agencies were notified and temporary repairs were made immediately per our obligation.”
In addition, the Town of Truckee officials maintain that the paving contractor followed procedure and handled Saturday’s service outage as required.
“As far as the town is concerned with this job and all the jobs Advanced Asphalt has done for us, they’ve done a good job and we’re very pleased with their work,” Town of Truckee Engineering Assistant Steve Johnson said.
During an unplanned outage like the one that occurred Saturday, Taylor said, TDPUD procedure is to have its dispatch service call in the PUD’s field personnel responsible for service restoration. In addition, TDPUD office staff are called in to answer phones and provide notification of the service outage.
One of the first calls placed by PUD office personnel is to the local fire department, alerting fire protection personnel that hydrants may be dry until service is restored, Taylor said.
“PUD is really proactive with this,” Truckee Fire Protection District Chief Mike Terwilliger said. “They let us know right away.”
Terwilliger added that other water service companies in the Truckee area, such as Glenshire and Del Oro water companies, are equally proactive in notifying the fire district when the water supply is threatened.
During water supply emergencies, Terwilliger said, fire protection district personnel ensure that the district’s water tenders are filled to capacity, as are all engines which carry water. The combined capacity of Truckee’s water tenders and engines totals 8,000 gallons of water, he said.
“If we have a house fire that requires more than 8,000 gallons, the structure was probably already fully involved,” Terwilliger said. “The optimal system is fire hydrants, but if they’re not functioning properly, our water tenders and engines are sufficient to handle most situations.”
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