As I watched the operation of this small crew of five construction workers do their thing earlier this summer — replacing water and sewer lines on Willard Street — I was impressed by the degree of precision needed by all five of them. The whole business seemed like ‘earth-dentistry’ except for the need for sterile technique; even there, they have to be very careful not to sever existing gas lines… or push through any of the brand-new copper water service lines.
Turns out that eventually some gas lines were hit and some of the crew were fined. On the other hand, at a meeting called by the TSSA people, it was revealed that there is a lack of clarity on procedures between the TSSA (Ontario’s Technical Standards and Safety Authority), the gas supplier/service company, their geo-marking/locating sub-contractors, and the contractor itself. All of which seems to be indirect evidence of how complicated it is to have to be working in such an old neighbourhood as Old Ottawa South.
As you can see in one of the photos, there is Mikael directing with hand and finger signals a work-around on one of the many boulders and rocks they’d find about every 20 feet. It was amazing to see how delicately they can manoeuvre these behemoth digger buckets around trees up above, and gas and water lines below. Eventually the crew had to resort to using a hydro excavation truck - often just referred to as a “hydro-vac” (which uses high-pressure water and an industrial vacuum to remove the soil from the excavation) and then hand shovels to finish the job
But the way they work so efficiently in this complex underground environment also reminded me of a hockey team, where every player on the ice knows what they’re supposed to be doing under a wide range of quickly shifting circumstances. And just like a hockey team, you don’t win every game.
By December they ought to be finished the main infrastructure work on upper Willard … with only landscaping details delayed until spring.
Brian Tansey is a longtime resident of Willard Street.
Featured in the October 2021 OSCAR.