Underground Construction and Related Industries Respond to Coronavirus

By Jeff Awalt, Executive Editor

HOUSTON (UC) — While much of North America hunkers down to wait out the coronavirus pandemic, essential workers at companies throughout the underground construction industry are continuing to deliver vital services to customers.

As they focus on their businesses, professional associations and other representative organizations have been working to ensure that companies can stay on the job through designation as “essential” services and to pursue federal support and funding for those who need it.

In addition, a number of companies have pledged sizable donations to COVID-19 relief efforts.

Some related announcements include:

Association of General Contractors

The CEO of AGC, Stephen E. Sandherr, issued the following statement in reaction to the release of new guidance from the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency that clarifies construction’s critical role in supporting essential infrastructure.

“Federal officials have, wisely, heeded our advice and opted to release new guidance that makes it clear that construction activities are included in its list of essential critical infrastructure workers. This new federal guidance should help eliminate the confusion and ambiguity that has led several state and local officials to needlessly order halts to construction activity that is clearly essential. 

“Specifically, federal officials have opted to identify construction and related activities, including the manufacture and delivery of construction supplies and safety equipment and the permitting & inspection of projects, in 25 different parts of its guidelines, compared to four times in its prior iteration. That is because federal officials understand the essential role construction plays in supporting our critical infrastructure and economic activities. They also understand that construction activity can continue to occur in a way that protects workers and the general public from the spread of coronavirus.

American Rental Association

The American Rental Association (ARA) submitted a letter to Capital Hill on March 20, asking for $20 billion in financial aid provisions for the equipment and event rental industry be added to the financial relief bill currently being negotiated in the United States Senate. A previous statement was sent to the Administration on March 11 requesting Small Business Administration (SBA) loan and disaster relief programs for the equipment and event rental industry.

“Like many industries, the equipment and event rental industry is being severely affected. The shelter in place directives and social distancing recommendations have caused virtually every planned event to be cancelled. These wide sweeping conditions have shuttered many event rental operations and most companies have laid off all staff as we wait on recovery measures. As states continue to tighten restrictions on business activities, it’s likely that our general tool and construction members will also be negatively impacted. It’s imperative that we take every possible measure to assist members and we’re hopeful to see some relief from our Administration,” said Tony Conant, ARA CEO.

National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO)

Sheila Joy, executive director of NASSCO, sent the following update to the organization’s membership:

“Our Government Relations Consultant, Steve Dye, has just shared with me an important letter to Governors from the EPA, requesting ‘that water and wastewater workers, as well as the manufacturers and suppliers who provide vital services and materials to the water sector, be considered essential workers and businesses by state authorities when enacting restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.’

“Download the letter in its entirety here and please share with our industry!” 


As a Critical Infrastructure Manufacturer, Akkerman said, the company is therefore deemed an essential business by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and will continue normal business operations during a state-mandated, stay-at-home order.

“As a reminder, our priority is to limit our Field Technician's exposure to the COVID-19 virus. We ask that you contact our team in Aftermarket Support to discuss all available technical resources before requesting an on-site technician, and when scheduling, allow for additional time to provide the technician with the option of driving to your project site,” Akkerman said.


The Gorman-Rupp Company will continue to conduct business at all of its locations within Ohio because as an “Essential Business,” pursuant to the Director’s Stay at Home Order issued by the State of Ohio in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Company intends to continue operating its manufacturing facilities in Ohio while complying with all applicable laws and will be following the recommendations and guidelines of both our local and State government and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Pipeline Equipment Solutions

The Department of Homeland Security has deemed the energy sector as a critical infrastructure industry, and Pipeline Equipment Solutions (PES) said it will stay open and available to support our customers, 24/7-365.

“We have immediate availability on all products,” CEO Shawn Lowman said. “Any lead time you can provide is beneficial to both of us as we have noticed that several of the trucking lanes are getting challenging. This will allow us to insure that your products arrive when you need them.”


Tesmec USA said it is continuing to deliver stellar products, parts and service, with production and service staff working diligently to ensure product are provided whenever needed.

“Our Service Team is readily accessible to trouble shoot issues by phone and available to be dispatched to job-site in the event an emergency repair is needed,” Tesmec said. “We have encouraged all employees who can work from home to do so and we hope you can understand that we have restricted all non-essential visits to our location. The limited staff that we do have on site understand how important it is not only to keep production moving, but to simultaneously adhere to CDC recommendations and social distancing guidelines.”

New Jersey American Water

Consistent with Governor Murphy’s Executive Order, New Jersey American Water will continue planned infrastructure projects across its service areas to continue to provide reliable water and wastewater services to its customers. As a water and wastewater service provider, New Jersey American Water provides an essential service. Water and wastewater utilities are part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “critical infrastructure sectors,” as safe drinking water is critical to protecting public health, and properly treated wastewater is vital for preventing disease and protecting the environment.

ICON Equipment

ICON Equipment said its Trench Shoring Yards are open and ready to service essential jobsites with shoring and shielding equipment and support that you and your business needs through this extremely challenging crisis.

“Our team will be standing ready to support you and the needs of your company as we continue to conduct business as usual while taking the proper safety precautions recommended by the CDC and governmental authorities,” said David Crandall, vice president and chief operating officer.


Condux International said it is adhering to regulations and guidelines from government authorities related to containment of COVID-19, while it also works to ensure business is not disrupted for its customers and partners. At this time, Condux and its distribution partners are operating at full capacity.


The Avanti office operates within Harris County as a manufacturer and supplier supporting essential critical infrastructure workers throughout the United States, and will remain open and operating under relatively normal business conditions at this time. The Avanti team continues to strictly practice safety procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are monitoring the status of COVID-19 on a daily basis. 


The Exelon Foundation, along with ComEd and Exelon Generation, announced a $2 million donation to the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund to help Illinois residents impacted by the pandemic. This donation adds to the more than $1.15 million Exelon Corp. and its family of companies previously donated to national and local relief organizations in the communities they serve. Previous donations include $250,000 to the United Way of Metro Chicago and the Chicago Community Trust’s COVID-19 Response Fund to support their efforts to provide essential services during the pandemic.


Williams announced that The Williams Foundation has pledged $1 million to provide community support during this unprecedented time of financial volatility and global health concern. Grants for community support will focus primarily on emergency response, food insecurity, health and human services and K-12 distance learning solutions for public schools. The Foundation also will support Williams’ employees in making an impact, matching contributions to amplify their efforts.


Tampa Electric and TECO Peoples Gas are donating $1 million to local charities that will benefit people financially affected by the pandemic. The donations include $500,000 to the Salvation Army’s Share program, which supports customers who cannot pay their utility bills and $500,000 to other charitable partner organizations working on the front lines of the pandemic, providing critical support to our community through meals, housing and other assistance.

New Jersey Natural Gas

New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) wants residential customers who are experiencing a temporary, financial hardship to know that assistance is available. NJNG’s Gift of Warmth program provides a one-time grant up to $500 to help income-eligible customers and those experiencing an unanticipated financial hardship, pay their natural gas bill. Administered by the United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, the Gift of Warmth is made possible through the generosity of NJNG, and its shareholders, employees and customers.

Pennsylvania One Call

An announcement from Pennsylvania One Call System, Inc. (POCS) serves as an important reminder to anyone digging during the current issues with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:

POCS continues to be operational through both call center and online services to receive underground utility locate requests and to provide those notices to POCS member underground facility owners. 

As a reminder to excavators with an active ticket who are delaying the planned work, please call POCS to cancel the notice to prevent utility locators from unnecessary activities. If an excavator is performing work exempt from Governor Wolf's Executive Order directing all but "life-sustaining" business to shut down, please review the utility responses carefully as utilities who are unable to mark in the time required may reach out to all involved parties to find a mutually agreeable schedule for locating the site. To place new tickets, please consider our online tools Web Ticket Entry and Web Single Address to avoid long wait times when projects restart.  

As a reminder to facility owner members, the Underground Utility Line Protection Law (UULPL) permits a facility owner to reach out to the excavator to negotiate a mutually agreeable locate date/time. After a facility owner has reached an agreement with the excavator, remember to use KARL response code 006 – Scheduled Date of Mark, and include the date and time the site will be marked.

POCS also offers a web service application developed to support public works and utility project planning and utility coordination within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania called Coordinate PA (CPA). CPA can be used to upload and share projects that may currently be in the planning stage, but are delayed due to virus issues. CPA is available through POCS' website under Applications.

Pennsylvania One Call System continues to monitor the COVID-19 developments closely. The safety, health, and well-being of our staff and stakeholders is our top priority. A Crisis Response Plan has been developed and distributed to our staff. We encourage all of our stakeholders to be vigilant in preventing the spread of this virus, as well as others.

Related News

From Archive


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}