When a leak needs to be repaired or a replacement line installed, when a fire hydrant or fire line needs to be repaired or installed, when lines and tanks need to be flushed or cleaned, and when new or upgraded services need to be installed, the MMWD Systems Maintenance Utility Crews are on the job.
MMWD has five utility crews that are assigned to these tasks throughout the district’s service area, day or night, rain or shine. The crews are generally made up of a laborer, utility worker, heavy equipment operator and utility crew leader.
On a recent sunny and pleasant summer day, one of these crews—Laborer Jesse Obrochta, Utility Worker Marc McCready, Heavy Equipment Operator Steve Gallegos and Utility Crew Leader Luis Banuelos—were assigned to repair several leaks on a busy two-lane street in San Rafael. (See more photos of them at work.)
The utility crew’s first step is to set up the jobsite by placing traffic control and safety cones around the perimeter of the affected area. The crew then pinpoints the location of the leak using listening devices—large metal bars—that are inserted into test holes drilled into the pavement above the buried pipe. Once the approximate position is located, the crew uses a jackhammer to open up the pavement, and the heavy equipment operator uses an excavator to dig out the pavement and dirt above the pipe. With the pipe now exposed, the crew places a stainless-steel, full-circle repair clamp around the leak, tightens the clamps, and then covers the clamps with protective tape to prevent corrosion.
Backfill is then brought to the jobsite and distributed using the excavator and by hand. The crew compacts the backfill with a hand-held tamper, which is a large power tool with a flat bottom that springs up and down with significant force to compress the fill. Another dump truck brings temporary asphalt to cover the hole, which will later be permanently repaired by a paving contractor.
The utility crews must work in all types of terrain, in traffic, at night, in the rain, etc. until the job is done. When they arrive to work, they are never sure what the day will bring except that no two days will be the same.