Fire at DU building destroyed sewer trucks with $804k replacement cost

Jan. 23 – Decatur Utilities is working to recover from a pre-Christmas fire that destroyed the engine compartments of the 10th Avenue Gas/Water/Wastewater Operations Facility and two trucks that will cost $800,000 to replace but for major sewer inspections are of crucial importance.

Jason Jones, department chief and firefighter for Decatur Fire & Rescue, said some people were outside the building on the evening of Dec. 9 when they noticed the smoke and called Morgan County 911.

According to Jones, Station 2 responded to what was originally reported as a vehicle fire but found the fire was larger than expected. They called for backup and four more fire engines arrived. They managed to contain the fire on two engine compartments, he said.

“We were able to contain it fairly quickly, but there was a lot of smoke and heat building up in the rest of the building,” Jones said.

No one was in the building and firefighters had no problems, Jones said.

General manager Ray Hardin told the DU board last week that they have been conducting structural reviews of the building since the fire.

“Nobody was hurt and the fire department did a great job putting out the fire,” Hardin said.

The two replacement vehicles will cost the utility a combined cost of $804,099, and major sewer inspections will be suspended while the utility awaits their delivery. DU is working on insurance issues to determine how much the utility can recover from the fire.

The fire destroyed a 2011 Ford/CUES CCTV and electroscan unit that was used to inspect the gravity sewer collection system on a daily basis to quantify and locate inflow and infiltration to determine how the sewer could be rehabilitated .

Hardin said they planned to replace that 9-year-old truck next year, so it’s nearing the end of its service life.

“Due to the age of the vehicle, we will not get the full purchase price (with insurance payout),” Hardin said.

The DU Board of Directors on Tuesday approved the purchase of a Ford E-450 chassis, a CUES side launcher CCTV system and an electroscan inspection system for $518,876 from Orlando-based CUES. The purchase includes a five-year warranty.

The story goes on

Evans said the lateral launcher is a new addition to DU. It is used in conjunction with the CCTV camera to inspect broken lateral connections and sewer piping within the pathways to a main sewer. It also performs post-directional bore services for lateral integrity inspections.

On the other hand, a Kenworth/Vactor Ramjet Line cleaning truck destroyed in the fire was only 2 years old. This truck was used in conjunction with the CCTV/Electroscan truck to clean and inspect gravity sewer lines in the collection system.

Evans said the inspection and maintenance activities are part of the utility’s sewer system improvement program and “play a critical role in identifying influent and infiltration areas, thereby minimizing” sewer overflows.

The board approved the purchase of a 2018 International chassis with a Vactor RamJet system for $285,223.

DU board chairman Neal Holland warned utility officials against buying a 2018 chassis instead of a brand new chassis, though Hardin said that chassis had never been used before.

“If you decide to update in three years, there’s a difference between a 7-year-old chassis and a 5-year-old chassis,” Holland said.

Hardin said the problem is that it would be late 2022 or early 2023 before they could deliver a new truck, “but with that effort from the cleaning crews, we just can’t go a year without this vehicle for both serviceability and performance.”

They’ve tried using contractors or hiring replacements, but Hardin said the cost “just wasn’t reasonable.”

These two trucks and one other truck are usually parked together by the 10th Avenue building. One of the trucks was parked elsewhere on the day of the fire, Hardin said.

Holland suggested parking the three in different locations so another potential disaster wouldn’t be as costly, and Hardin said they would consider that suggestion.

Hardin said the purchase of the two trucks must now be approved by City Council, possibly as early as the Feb. 7 council meeting. The vendors assured them they will hold the trucks for DU while they await council approval, he added.

Evans said he expects delivery of the two vehicles to occur in the next two or three months. The trucks are already in stock, so there is no need to build them.

“Some of the components have yet to be purchased and loaded onto the trucks,” Evans said.

[email protected] or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.

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