Communities large and small across the United States are facing a hidden crisis – failing underground water and sewer pipes.
According to a report published in the New York Times in November 2017, more than 1.6 million miles of water and sewer pipes are nearing the end of their useful life. In fact, by 2020, the average age of the pipes will hit 45 years. The cost to replace water and sewer pipes over the coming decades may reach more than $1 trillion, according to the American Water Works Association.
While this seems like a large feat, A.W.A. Contracting, Inc. – a concrete contractor, road construction and underground utility company based in Jacksonville, Florida – is doing what it can in its area to help alleviate this nationwide infrastructure challenge.
“We complete a lot of maintenance contracts for St. Johns County, Putnam County, Marion County, among others,” says Artie Allen, owner of A.W.A. Contracting, who has more than 30 years of experience in construction. “This includes road repairs after major storms, DOT fast-track jobs, minor bridge decks, box culverts and installing underground utilities. We’re on call 24/7.”
So, when Palatka, Florida – located in Putnam County and situated near the St. Johns River – needed to replace failing stormwater pipes in a residential area, A.W.A. Contracting took on the challenge. As part of this drainage repair project, the underground utility company was tasked with replacing underground pipes with new 60-inch reinforced concrete pipe on a section of Campbell Street. “The city had some failures from pipe that was put in the early 1970s,” Artie says.
The project was particularly difficult because it was located in an existing residential neighborhood where homeowners needed to access their driveways and where cars needed to pass the construction along Campbell Street.
To efficiently complete this project on schedule, A.W.A. Contracting used a Doosan® DX350LC-5 crawler excavator and a DL220-5 wheel loader. The company purchased the Doosan construction equipment from its local dealer, Bobcat of Jacksonville. Although the DX350LC-5 weighs approximately 80,000 pounds, Artie says the crawler excavator is still maneuverable in residential areas, like along Campbell Street.
Doosan equipment has given us a boost as a company and let us expand to other counties. The equipment’s been great; we’ve been happy with it. The operators like it. Plus, they are orange, so everybody sees them.
Working alongside Campbell Street, Artie’s operators used the DX350LC-5 crawler excavator to excavate, remove the old pipe, trench approximately 13 feet, then lift and place the new 60-inch reinforced concrete pipe. Working in tandem with a truck, the excavator efficiently loaded the dirt into the truck bed with minimal disruption to passing cars. The DL220-5 was paired with a pallet fork to lift the pipe from a nearby staging area and transport it next to the excavator. Once in position, the DX350LC-5 lifted and placed the new 60-inch pipe using the excavator’s lift eye.
“The DX350LC-5 was perfect for digging a trench and laying the pipe for this project,” said Allen. “It gave us the movability and the strength that we need to accomplish this project on time and within budget. The wheel loaders worked really well with the pipe crews. It was the right size machine for this project. Plus, the visibility from the cab allowed us to clearly see the jobsite and the task at hand.”
As the Palatka project wrapped up, A.W.A. Contracting had plenty of other projects lined up in northeast Florida. With more work ahead, Allen is confident his right-sized equipment is well-positioned to handle the work.
“We want to do the best we can every time,” Artie says. “When the county does their final inspection, we’re proud to say that we were a part of the process, and our equipment helped us get to the finish line.”