Launch Slideshow

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Water woes

Water woes

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    Photo: Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam

    Contractors with Garver Construction inspect the damage on a 96-inch steel water transmission main.

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    Photo: Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam

    A Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam engineer repairs interior cracking in a 60-inch prestressed concrete cylinder pipe water main in downtown Houston.

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    Photo: Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam

    Crews from Texas Sterling Construction repair a 42-inch prestressed concrete cylinder pipe water line near Houston's Sims Bayou Pump Station.

“The ‘On-Call Rehabilitation to Large Diameter Water Lines' contract using the assigned values with multipliers was accepted for use by the city, eliminating the uncertainty of using contacts on a T&M basis, and thereby standardizing pricing and maintaining competitiveness of contractors,” said Jajoo.

LAN and the city set up the on-call rehabilitation contract as a recurring agreement on an as-needed basis. The city set up a budget specifically for this contract, which will be renewed every year. The method is also well-suited for use on other types of emergency repairs such as pavement and bridge failures.

— Ortega is vice president with Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc.

SIDEBAR: Public notification in an emergency

When, on two separate occasions, citizens of Houston were faced with the catastrophic collapse of 60- and 42-inch water lines, the public information office of the department of public works and engineering sprang into action. Under direction of Wes Johnson, public information officer, the general public and affected citizens alike stayed informed of events as they unfolded.

“Catastrophic water line failure notifications run in reverse, in that most cases citizens contact the city before we have a chance to notify them due to the sudden impact of these emergencies,” said Johnson. “Those in close proximity to the events phone our call center at the first sign of problems. The city maintains excellent records of the calls for such events and the operators know who to contact in the city so that line breaks can be isolated as soon as possible.”

Within minutes of being notified, public works and engineering personnel mobilized to the sites with the primary goal of shutting off the water. Other personnel determined the size of ruptured lines and which residences and businesses would be affected by the loss of water. Johnson immediately traveled to the affected area and began giving media interviews to update residents. Specialized personnel attended to the breaks; others went door to door to determine the status of each location, gave verbal status updates, and handed out cards with steps required to file for assistance.

“One of the challenges with water line ruptures is that affected citizens may not witness responders immediately working near their homes. This is due to the fact that repair teams are actually upstream attempting to locate and repair the damage as fast as possible in order to stop the flooding,” said Johnson.

The 60-inch line break was in a low-impact area, with fewer than a dozen residents affected, so the residents were informed quickly in person and were also later informed of options for compensation. The income of those affected allowed them to qualify for grant money to repair or replace their homes.

Johnson arrived onsite shortly after the 42-inch water line break was reported and gave media interviews for several hours to keep the public informed as the situation improved. The mayor's office then teamed with Johnson to follow up with the media for several days as new information became available.