The Water Main Break Observations by Former City Employee

waterBreak8I’d like to make a few comments about the safety and the water main tap. I am a former employee of the Port Orange Utilities Dept. I have 41 years of experience in all areas of utilities work.
The trench setup was borderline between safe and unsafe by looking at the pictures, leaning towards unsafe. They could have used some shoring or scraping back the top of the trench. Someone should have put a stop to the work and made sure it was safe. This type of work is inherently dangerous but none the less it is incumbent upon anyone involved to take any and all steps to insure a safe work area. Many times in the past when I encountered a contractor doing something wrong or dangerous I have stepped in and had them do it correctly. You won’t win any popularity contest that way but you can live with yourself knowing you did the right thing.
The city needs employees with the experience, discipline and the authority to make these calls. They are lacking in this area and those that recognize situations like this are afraid to say anything or let it go with a wink and a nod. Real leadership is desperately needed.
As far as the tap is concerned that was a cluster f—. Way too much of the main is exposed and unsupported. You can clearly see the bow in the main putting undue stress on it. It should have been backfilled and compacted before the tap was attempted. I have talked to some employees and I read the report and I find that this was doomed for failure. I will explain.
This water main is one if not the most crucial water main in the distribution system and they chose to tap it on one of the busiest weeks of the year leaving many of our businesses and residents without Quality drinking water for an unacceptable amount of time. 1st bad decision.
They did not have a contingency plan for a break resulting from this tap. In the past when we had good people running the show on the crew level they would go out in the field and locate the isolation valves before hand and notify the water plant in advance. They did not do this. 2nd bad decision.
They should have had people located at the isolation valves with valve wrenches and radio at ready minimizing low pressure downtime. They did not. 3rd bad decision.
As mentioned previously the main was too exposed and unsupported. There was a tremendous strain on the line already pushing the limit. When they cut a hole in the line at the highest stress point it caused catastrophic failure. 4th bad decision.
If this had been well thought out and properly executed this in all probability could have been avoided. The city needs the right people in the right positions to properly manage the work. I hope that they learned from this experience. Being belligerent towards our citizens, making phony excuses and wise ass remarks doesn’t cut it.
R. Woodman

2 thoughts on “The Water Main Break Observations by Former City Employee

  • March 28, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    That comment was well put. You were the hot topic around the round table this morning. I am glad you explained proper procedure and expressed that some people in the department actually have the same knowledge as you. Unfortunately the dog and pony show lives on. It is getting worse. You are correct that those in the know are under a gag order. The runaway train appears out of control and will soon derail itself at this pace. It is merely only a matter of time. I hope you are enjoying your retirement. You are surely missed. Perhaps a run for Council for you would be an option. I know you would be widely supported. Thanks for your honesty and concerns.

    • March 29, 2014 at 8:15 am

      Thank you friend. I could feel my ears burning as I knew that those that would like to sweep things like this under the rug would be a little upset. As an employee my comments would not have been well received by the usual few people that are and have been behind these screw-ups.
      Now that I am just a private citizen I can comment on these things without the threat of being fired. Keep the faith. Sooner or later it will all catch up with the ones calling the shots.
      As for a former employee running for council no thanks. Look at it this way. As an employee you see all the BS going on behind the scenes and can’t do anything about it. As a former employee on the council you know all the BS and won’t do anything about it.


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