Sunk trash truck tale has happy ending

When a road washed out, Denver Water crews quickly returned to the scene to replace old pipes.

February 24, 2015 | By: Travis Thompson
The tires of a new Denver Public Works trash truck became stuck after driving over a temporary road patch that was weakened by a water pipe leak on south Jasmine Street near east Mexico Avenue in southeast Denver.
The tires of a new Denver Public Works trash truck became stuck after driving over a temporary road patch weakened by a water pipe leak in southeast Denver.

As snow clouds loomed last Saturday morning, a trash truck found itself stuck down to its axle in a road patch that seemed like quicksand. Begging the question, what happened?

The answer starts with a story about Denver Water’s pipe replacement program, which evaluates the 3,000 miles of water pipeline in our system to prioritize the pipes most in need of replacement. And, considering the average pipe in our system is 44 years old, there are plenty of good candidates.

In early February, Denver Water began a project to replace about 3,000 feet of corroded cast-iron pipe in southeast Denver.

“This old pipe is in bad shape,” said Gabe Lombardi, the Denver Water foreman working on the replacement project. “We’ve been out here a lot recently responding to issues. If we weren’t proactively replacing this pipe now, we would definitely be here again soon responding to more breaks.”

Jose Saldivar, Denver Water mechanic, connecting a service line to the new 6-inch-diameter water main on south Jasmine Street.
Jose Saldivar, Denver Water mechanic, connects a customer to the new 6-inch-diameter water pipe.

Work was moving quickly, and the crew had nearly all of the customers connected to the new pipe at the end of last week as they wrapped up work before the weekend.

But just as quickly as the weather deteriorated, so did the 60-year-old water pipe, which blew out as the winter storm blew in across the metro area Friday afternoon.

An emergency crew quickly repaired the old pipe and patched the road so all customers had water service and an accessible street for the weekend.

Or so we thought. The following morning Denver Water received a call from Denver Public Works alerting us that their shiny new trash truck was stuck in the road.

“I immediately knew that the old pipe had something to do with it,” Lombardi said. “There is no way the road base would have just washed away because of the snow like that.”

Lombardi’s instincts were spot-on. After the truck was towed out of the hole — fortunately with no injuries or damage — Lombardi’s crew dug back down to the old main and discovered a new leak. The leak had turned the temporary patch into a marshy mess. The crew quickly fixed the problem by Saturday afternoon.

Today, the last few customers are being connected to the new water pipe, and the street will be completely repaved within the week.

Most important, the old, troublesome section of this water main will officially be decommissioned.

“Now, I think we can all see why this pipe was identified to be replaced,” said Lombardi. “I’m just glad we were able to replace it before it became a bigger issue for this community.”

On Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, Denver Water repaired a 6-inch-diameter water pipe leak after a Denver Public Works trash truck was towed out from a washed-out road patch.
On Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, Denver Water repaired a 6-inch-diameter water pipe leak after a Denver Public Works trash truck was towed out of a washed-out road patch.

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