Public Works follies?

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I hear these stories all the time -- stories about minor disasters and expensive mistakes at the City of Tulsa Public Works Department. The stories don't reflect badly on the citeewurkors but on the managers and policy makers further up the hierarchy.

I haven't had time to chase any of these stories down, but I hear them over and over again. At the very least, they are widely believed, and if they are local urban legends, it's probably in the TPWD's interest to provide documentation to debunk them.

The story I heard tonight involved a manhole cover on N. Sheridan near King St. Heavy rains were causing a sanitary sewer backup, actually lifting the cover up and allowing raw sewage to run out. The brilliant solution to this problem was to weld the cover to the manhole. So instead of the overflow pressure lifting the cover above the street, the pressure broke the street.

I have heard about the collapse of a city water storage tank on the hill west of the Port of Catoosa. I have heard about a pump station failing catastrophically because it was pushed beyond its rating to get water up the hill to the storage facility on Turkey Mountain.

I have heard of streets sinking several inches due to subsurface voids; the problem is "corrected" by topping up the resulting sinkhole with paving material.

I've heard about lousy water pressure from many people in the area around the Fairgrounds. The topological divide separating the Arkansas River drainage basin from the Verdigris River basin runs roughly northwest to southeast through the Fairgrounds, making it a logical site for a water tower. The city used to have a big water tower at 21st and Louisville. What tower is serving the higher elevations of midtown these days? Could that explain the lousy water pressure?

I keep hearing rumors that, despite a consent decree to fix our sanitary sewage system in the 1980s, we still have overflows and backups that can contaminate homes, parks, and streams. The people who tell me this think maybe we need the EPA to come back to Tulsa and check into the health of our sewer system.

The common theme seems to be planning and engineering failures. As I said, I haven't confirmed any of these stories, but they're out there, and they raise doubts about trusting the TPWD with a couple billion dollars. This is why we need a top-to-bottom audit of the department, with whistleblower protection, whether Director Charles Hardt wants it or not.

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2 Comments

Bob said:

And these are the same Public Werkes volke that want another $2 BILLION of our sales tax dollars?

David S. Author Profile Page said:

Councilor Troyer recently was introduced to the problem with underground flowing water at my place of employment, that was made worse by a PW contractor from Texas.Needless to say we are on our own in fixing it on our property but there will be a street collapse if it's not solved overall at some point.

I wonder with the sewer problems we hear of , why the city council approved over $2 million in over collected sewer fees to be transfered to other deptartments 2 months ago???

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 24, 2008 10:59 PM.

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