Editor’s Note: In each issue, Utility Contractor will profile NUCA’s Top Job winners. These projects present the association’s best and most innovative work that keep our country’s utility networks operating at peak performance. To nominate your project for Top Jobs, visit: nuca.com/topjobs
In cities across the country, keeping our aging infrastructure systems is an ongoing challenge. Oftentimes, however, the buried utilities that keep our cities up and running aren’t given much thought – until there is a problem. But thanks to dedicated utilities like DC Water and hard-working utility contractors like Anchor Construction Corp., residents can rest assured that their utilities networks continue functioning even when issues arise.
On Oct. 26, 2020, Anchor Construction got an emergency call from DC Water about a sinkhole that developed near the intersection of Irving Street and 18th Street in Northwest Washington, D.C. Anchor crews arrived within 40 minutes to stabilize the area and found that a utility vault used for communications equipment had fallen, causing damage to an adjacent sewer main and leaving a water main precariously hanging nearby.
To make matters more complicated, the area is a busy residential area near the National Zoo with Irving Street accommodating frequent bus traffic, along with pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The leaking sewer contributed to a sinkhole that eventually measured 24 ft deep and 20 ft long by 20 ft wide.
Anchor crews initially began digging with an excavator to clear the hole until it couldn’t safely dig any deeper. At that point, crews started hand digging, using shoring and lagging to protect the excavation as they continued downward. After nearly six straight days of digging and removing tons of mud, crews were able to secure and shore the area, and efforts to restore the damaged utilities could begin in earnest.
“With a hole of that depth and width, big hand digging and using shoring and lagging was the safest option even though it takes a little longer,” said Jill West, project engineer with Anchor Construction.
DC Water first assessed the damaged and its engineering department developed a repair plan. The damaged sewer main was a 48-in. brick sewer that required an internal PVC point repair of a 3-ft section of pipe with concrete collars on the sides, as well as repairs to the brick sewer itself and connections. Additionally, small repairs were made to the 10-in. water main, which had fortunately avoided major damage. After a cable company was brought in to install a new vault and restore communications facilities, Anchor backfilled with a special mixture of concrete with fibers so the hole wouldn’t collapse again.
Despite the need to close the road and the associated disruption to residents, West says she was pleased with the way the public responded to the emergency repair. “It was great to see that the community was amicable and patient despite the fact that the road was closed, in addition to the noise coming from jack hammers, excavators and dump trucks,” she said. “Despite all the impacts, they were excited to see the work getting done and getting done correctly.”
After the repairs were completed and the roadway restored to District Department of Transportation standards, the repair project was signed off on Nov. 30, 2020, a little over one month since the sinkhole was first discovered.
West credits Anchor Construction’s experienced field personnel, including Senior Superintendent Jose Saravia and Lead Foreman Octavio Hernandez, in executing the tricky repair. “We have a very unique team that has a lot of experts in many different areas,” she said. “They have many years of experience in dealing with all types of problems, including brick sewers. We are fortunate to have them on our team.”
Successful completion of the project for residents means that a potentially unsafe roadway was restored and a failing sewer returned to service. Additionally, communications, including WiFi, were back up and running for people working from home due to COVID-19.
Project Name: 1810 Irving Street NW Collapse
Project Owner: DC Water
Location: Intersection of Irving St. DW and 18th St., Washington, D.C.
Contractor: Anchor Construction, Washington, D.C.