September 2021 Vol. 76 No. 9



NTSB: Crew Safety Failure Led to San Francisco Natural Gas Fire 

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that an excavation crew from Kilford Engineering Inc. failed to follow safety procedures which led to a 2019 natural gas release and fire in San Francisco. 

The NTSB issued Pipeline Accident Report 21-02 in August, detailing its investigation of the February 2019, natural gas release and fire in San Francisco. 

NTSB investigators determined the failure of the excavation crew to follow safe excavation practices within the area surrounding Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s 4-inch natural gas distribution pipeline, caused the excavation backhoe to strike a pipeline branch connection. 

The accident occurred during excavation for fiberoptic conduit in a residential neighborhood in San Francisco. There were no injuries or fatalities. About 100 people were evacuated from the area. 

The crew conducted mechanical excavation too close to the pipeline without taking the proper precautions first to make sure the area was safe to execute the dig, said Robert Hall, director of the NTSB’s Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations. 

The agency issued one safety recommendation to San Francisco emergency response agencies and two safety recommendations to PG&E as a result of the investigation. The recommendations address PG&E’s data integration gaps and insufficient joint planning between PG&E and San Francisco emergency response agencies. 


CGA Releases Newest Edition of Best Practices Guide 

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) has released the 18th edition of its Best Practices Guide to protect vital underground infrastructure and improve safety during excavation activities conducted in the vicinity of existing underground facilities. 

The latest guide includes more than 160 Best Practices established by a consensus of CGA’s 16 stakeholder groups that provide damage prevention recommendations based on practices currently being utilized. They are organized by six key industry areas to provide guidance along the entire safe digging process: One Call Center, Facility Owner, Excavator, Locator, Project Owner and Designer. 

The guide is developed by the CGA Best Practices Committee, which oversees the review and approval of new Best Practices and updates to existing practices. Potential practices are proposed by CGA members and damage prevention stakeholders as advancements in technology, changes in policy and other factors create opportunities to further improve the safe digging process. 

The newly released Best Practices Guide 18.0 includes two new Best Practices and addition to Appendix B: Uniform Color Code and Marking Guidelines that reflect recent technology advancements being utilized in damage prevention: 

The Best Practices Guide 18.0 is available at 


Georgia Wins Fresh Ruling in Water War with Florida, Alabama 

A judge has ruled that a federal agency doesn’t have to revise its plans for how it operates dams along the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, another win for Georgia in its struggles with Florida and Alabama over the water that flows into the Apalachicola River. 

Environmental groups and the state of Alabama had sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2017, saying the agency’s plans held too much water in reservoirs in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin and that it should release more for hydropower and wildlife. 

It’s the second win for Georgia, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Florida’s effort this spring to cap how much water Georgia could use. 

Lake Lanier northeast of Atlanta and the Chattahoochee River supply drinking water to much of metro Atlanta. 

“We will continue to be good stewards of our water resources, and we are proud to have obtained a positive resolution on behalf of all Georgians,” Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr said in a joint statement. 

Some or all of the plaintiffs could appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 


Louisiana Receiving Water System Applications for Grants 

Louisiana has received nearly 200 applications so far from community water systems seeking a share of $300 million in federal coronavirus aid that state lawmakers have earmarked for improvements to public water and sewage systems. 

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the governor’s chief budget adviser, said his department will make recommendations to lawmakers about which ones they should approve by Nov. 8. The administration will grade its applications based on severity of need, willingness to consolidate with other systems, readiness to proceed, among other criteria, he said. 

The joint House and Senate budget committee will decide which projects actually get financing. 

“There’s a huge interest in this program,” Dardenne said. “There’s not going to be enough money to address everything.” 

Louisiana has nearly 1,300 water systems statewide. About half are operating off structures that are more than 50 years old, according to reports documenting their vulnerabilities. Needed repairs and improvements are estimated to cost billions. 


Sewage Plants Hit by Ransomware Attacks in Maine 

A pair of ransomware attacks on sewage treatment plants in rural Maine communities demonstrates that small towns need to be just as vigilant as larger communities in protecting against hackers, local officials said. 

The attacks occurred in Mount Desert Limestone, and no money was paid and no customer data was compromised, officials said. 

“It’s like an arms race between the good guys and the bad guys,” said Mount Desert Town Manager Durlin Lunt Jr. ”Fortunately, in this case, they didn’t get anything.” 

Limestone Water and Sewer District Superintendent Jim Leighton said the control computer was hit with the ransomware attack. 

The hackers couldn’t cause harm but the computer shutdown did take offline alarms to alert workers if pumps overheat or tanks are overfilled, he said. 


Deere, Hitachi Construction to End Joint Manufacturing and Marketing Agreements 

John Deere and Hitachi Construction Machinery announced that they have agreed to end their Deere-Hitachi joint venture manufacturing and marketing agreements and will enter into new license and supply agreements enabling Deere to continue sourcing, manufacturing and distributing the current lineup of Deere-branded excavators in the Americas. 

The changes will go into effect on Feb. 28, 2022, pending regulatory approval. Hitachi Construction Machinery will assume all product and service operations for the Americas in Spring 2022 and plans to add more than 60 new local positions in North America. 

John Deere will acquire the Deere-Hitachi joint-venture factories in Kernersville, NC; Indaiatuba, Brazil; and Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Deere will continue to manufacture Deere-branded construction and forestry excavators currently produced at the three Deere-Hitachi factories. These locations will discontinue production of Hitachi-branded excavators, but John Deere will continue to offer a full portfolio of excavators through a supply agreement with Hitachi. 

John Deere and Hitachi began a supply relationship in the early 1960s; then in 1988 the companies started the Deere-Hitachi manufacturing joint venture to produce excavators in Kernersville, NC. In 2001, John Deere and Hitachi combined their marketing and distribution efforts in the Americas. In 2011, excavator manufacturing was expanded with the addition of the Deere-Hitachi Brazil factory in Indaiatuba. 


Kentucky Airport Recommended for Wastewater Project Funding 

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has recommended that the federal Appalachian Regional Commission approve a roughly $1 million infrastructure project that would extend wastewater collection and treatment service to the Central Kentucky Regional Airport. 

Existing water and sewer systems at the airport cannot support its anticipated growth, Beshear said. The need for upgrades is amplified by the presence of the Eastern Kentucky University flight school at the airport, which soon will create an aviation mechanic program. 

“These infrastructure upgrades will encourage more investments and bring even more jobs to this region,” the governor said. 


TBM “MudHoney” Launches on Water Quality Project in Seattle 

The Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) “MudHoney” has begun excavation on a 2.7 mile, 18’10” diameter tunnel in Seattle that will prevent up to 75 million gallons of polluted stormwater and sewage from entering the Lake Washington Ship Canal, Salmon Bay, and Lake Union each year. 

Crews lowered MudHoney into the 107-feet deep, 80-foot diameter shaft in Ballard, Washington, which will be home to the western end of the tunnel and above-ground facilities supporting the tunnel. 

The Ship Canal Water Quality Project is a $570 million project. The Lane Construction Corporation, the U.S. subsidiary of the Webuild Group, has a $255 million share of the project. The project is expected to be completed by 2025. 

“MudHoney” was selected by the public in a vote to name the TBM and is a nod to one of Seattle’s beloved rock bands. 

Skid Steer Auction Prices Up 30% in the U.S. – Ritchie Bros. 

Ritchie Bros.’ latest Market Trends Report continues to show positive pricing trends across all its equipment indexes, with medium earthmoving and vocational trucks up 27 percent and 26 percent respectively, for the three months ending July 31. 

Over the past decade, the equipment auction company said it has seen multi-terrain loader sales grow exponentially in comparison to its wheeled counterpart. In 2010, it sold roughly five times more skid steers (3,037 units) in the U.S. than multi-terrain loaders (624 units). By 2020 that ratio had changed drastically, as the company sold approximately 2.5 times more multi-terrain loaders (3,484) than skid steers (1,310). 

The retail market for used compact-sized earthmoving equipment, including skid steer loaders, has also shown impressive strength this year.  


Michels Canada Completes Canada’s Longest HDD Installation 

Michels Canada extended the limits of trenchless construction in Canada by using horizontal directional drilling to complete a 11,614-foot crossing in Burlington, Ontario, under the Hidden Lake Golf Club. 

The Hidden Lake HDD is the longest successful HDD installation in Canada to date, surpassing the previous record of about 7,200 feet, also set by Michels Canada. 

The installation was part of a project to replace about 39 miles of the Sarnia Products Pipeline between the Waterdown pump station in rural Hamilton and the storage facility in Toronto’s North York area. 

The project used a 12-inch steel pipe installed to a maximum depth of 230 feet below the surface and pulled into place in three sections over a 40-hour period. The crossing spanned along a right-of-way that passes under the Hidden Lake Golf Club and a wetland in the environmentally sensitive Southern Ontario region. 

“The completion of record-length trenchless projects like this one demonstrate our capabilities for safe, environmentally sound ways of constructing new or replacing existing utility lines,” said Gary Ziehr, vice president of energy at Michels Canada. “When HDD and other trenchless methods are used to complement traditional open cut utility construction methods, we are able to support our clients in safely delivering needed energy supplies to their customers.” 

Due to the length of the crossing, Michels Canada deployed a rig on each end of the alignment. Operators used the rigs to drill toward one other and then used gyroscopic survey and steering technology to complete the intersection of the two bore holes. The alignment follows the right-of-way of the original Sarnia pipeline, so the Michels Canada team had to carefully navigate the five horizontal curves along the alignment. 

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