A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 71

Day 71

Culvert Lining Project 

Failure of HDPE Snap-tite Culvert Joint

Today the project engineer for our culvert lining project told me that the pipe joint had opened up in our culvert lining project. We had the pipe manufacturer, Snap-Tite, visit the site to look it over and offer a solution. But after seeing how it failed, I would not recommend in the future trying this type of pipe for this application. It's really unfortunate because up to this point the project had been turning out so well. Hopefully the manufacturer can come up with a method of making sure this does not degrade any further from what it has already done. I've included a photo we took to show how the joint moved open on the top and bottom. And I included a the name and manufacturer in this post so anyone considering using this method in the future is aware of the issues that can come up if they choose this method of installation. I can't say at this time what caused the joint to open so I am not sure if it is a construction problem or a manufacturer problem. But for me, it would not be worth taking a chance that this could happen again by specifying this method in the future unless we end up with an acceptable resolution.

Water Main Extension

We also met with the consultant who had prepared the incorrect easement for our water main project. Before meeting, I went out to the site to check their work. They definitely had missed the fact that the property owner had purchased part of a railroad right of way. So they took the 90-foot long easement we required and just moved it west. And instead of starting at what is actually the easterly property line and going west 90 feet, they started at the original property line and went west. This would have put the easement into the building. We also noticed during our meeting they had misspelled the word "Easement." Fortunately the consultant said he would check everything their subconsultant had done and fix it so it is right at no extra cost.

Email Issues

Last week our IT person notified a few of us we were using too much memory on the server for our emails. Of course I had the most because when I started working here, I asked if we had a limit and was told no. So I rarely deleted anything so I could easily find information. But this problem crashed our email server so now I have to bring the amount of storage I use to under 4Gb. So far I am down to 10 from 17 and have 6 to go! Seems like going to Google would be a good idea if we are operating this close to the limit! I can get almost 8 Gb of storage for free from them and 25 Gb for only about $50 a year! And lately it seems like everyone I talk to lately is moving their business or agency over to the Google Enterprise tools.

Development Meeting

We also had our development staff meeting. Today we discussed a few of the projects that we have been reviewing. For both, we have sent comments back to the developers and are waiting for responsed. We also discussed some sign regulation issues along with the expansion of our commuter parking deck and construction of the community gardens.


A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 67

Day 67

Culvert Lining Project

I didn't have a chance to go out to the culvert lining project myself today because I had too many other meetings and things to do. But a couple of my staff went out to watch the contractor pour the headwalls. Our concern over this operation has been that the subcontractor chose to completely block the culvert to perform this operation. The project engineer made it very clear to him that he was doing so at his own risk. Today, after the pour, they cut an opening in the form, but from what I was told, it still doesn't open it up to its full capacity. Although there was little threat of a heavy rain last night, a lot more rainfall is predicted for Tuesday, so the contractor needs to get in there immediately in the morning and remove the form and cut out the supports inside the pipe.

Southeast Plan

We've been working with a consultant on a plan of how the area lying south and east of our community will develop. According to boundary agreements with the other cities in this area, the land is anticipated to be annexed to our city. It's somewhat of a challenging location due to some natural topography and roadway and utility connections. So our city chose to undertake an overall planning effort to determine the best development scenario. By doing this, it's easier for developers to more quickly assess any issues that would affect proposed improvements in this area.

So today we met with the consultant to determine the plan's current status and how we want to proceed.

Downtown Planning

I spent the afternoon in another meeting with staff and the consultant who is working on our downtown plan. We explained to him the changes and comments we had on his draft plan.



A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 60

Day 60

Culvert Lining Project

Geneva Culvert Lining Project 2011

Today was the day the liner was delivered for our culvert lining project. The placement of it seemed to go well. The contractor will finish grouting the annular space tomorrow. A resident did stop by to tell us we didn't know what we were doing, and it would never work, and he would sue everyone when water backed up into his home. Of course, he had no  information to base his opinion on other than the new pipe is of a smaller diameter than the existing one. So the other staff members tried to explain the hydraulics and design information to give him an idea of why a smaller pipe can carry the same or more water, but he still didn't believe anyone. So he contacted the elected officials to express his concern. I let the engineer who designed the culvert project know about the complaint. 

It's unfortunate, but this seems to happen so much where a group of professionals put in a lot of time designing a project, and then someone stops by and tells everyone they are all wrong, and it will never work. And they never seem to have any facts or information to base their opinion on. 

I have to admit I have seen some poor designs in general executed over the past 30 years, however, none related to culvert sizing. And even those poor designs did not cause failures or damage – they were just not good designs and usually ended up impacting our operations and increasing our costs. So the city had to do more work to make the final product better and improve efficiency and cut costs. But I can't remember where there was property damage that could be attributed to bad design – maybe poor construction but not poor design.

Of course, the bottom line in a something like this is that anyone building or buying a home next to a creek increases their risk of having water entering their home during a storm. Particularly when openings like doors or windows are installed that allow for a way for water to enter the home. Culverts and other stormwater facilities are only designed to carry a certain storm intensity. If a storm occurs that is greater than the design storm, the culvert or other stormwater infrastructure will not convey all the water and could allow water to back up and enter nearby structures. So for our situation, whether we leave the old culvert or install a new one with equal or greater capacity, there will always be a risk that a storm occurs that will not be handled by the culvert and water could back up into homes – that is the risk of owning property next to a body of water.

Intersection Enhancements

We also met with a vendor who sells traffic control products. He did a great job showing us some alternatives for the intersection where we are trying to draw attention to a pedestrian crossing. One product we are particularly interested in is a sign and light called the "Enhancer." Here is the link to a site showing the product: http://www.statewidetrafficsafety.com/enhancer.asp.


We did manage to get our staff meeting in today. And I continued on trying to check our budget line items.




A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer – Day 20

Day 20

Geneva Vactor Work 2011

Today was our public works staff meeting. Only the superintendents of each division were at this meeting. Our supervisor usually begins each meeting by going over items and issues that relate to the entire department as a whole. Then each of us gives a division report – most of the time the majority of the discussion centers around projects we are working on. There's a lot going on so the meeting took quite a while. After the meeting my supervisor and I went into the field to check on some of the operations. Some of the crews were out patching while others were working on a repair to an electric line damaged by a contractor working for a private developer. Another crew was excavating an area to determine why sinkholes keep showing up in the surface. The photo in this post shows the hole they were excavating. You can see a concrete storm sewer near the top of the surface.

In the afternoon one of the project engineers and I met with two representatives from an engineering consulting firm. They have been working on a culvert lining project for us. Today they showed us the plans which are about 90% completed. Next they will be finishing up the hydraulic calculation. We wanted to be sure the liner would not reduce the capacity so we are performing the calculation to document that it will not. Then they will submit the plans and specs to permitting authorities, although we suspect there could be no actual permit required. But we will submit just to make sure.

I also spent some time today discussing the road project with the engineer managing the job and prepared a write-up about the project for the city's newsletter. Today was also the last summer intern's final day with us. He will now go off to find a full time job as an engineer so if anyone is looking for a new civil engineering graduate who is hard working, friendly, and intelligent, drop me a line!