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Hillsboro Street potholes could have been prevented by proper compaction

By Tom Glendinning
Posted Thursday, June 20, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - The Hillsboro Street water line is an infrastructure improvement that has been needed for a long time. I applaud the town for replacing this old line. My only complaint about the work is the poor compaction after each night’s shift and the consequences on road condition.

I did not say that the job should not have been done. I did not say that the inspector was a bad person. What I said was that the potholes could have been prevented by proper compaction between the temporary work and the final inspection and paving.

This practice is observed by highway and infrastructure contractors, no matter what size they are, in state and federal highway jobs, US Army Corps of Engineer jobs, etc. It is neither a new practice, nor a penalty. It is just the way jobs are done.

Further, if the Town of Pittsboro were not delivering the lawfully required 150 PSIG in the water pressure for the safety of town residents, then, it is negligent. Thus, to argue that the new line was needed for safety’s sake is moot.

Another point raised was the courthouse fire as an example of the need for a new line. It was assumed that low water pressure was the reason that the fire could not be put out. That is false. Maybe volume or fireplug access, but not pressure. The wall of tarpaulins mounted on the scaffolding around the whole building were fireproof. They neither burned nor disappear until the scaffolding failed, which meant that the building had burned almost completely before water could be directed to the flames. The basic cause was ineptitude or miscalculation on the part of the contractor specifications and the inspecting parties at the close of the work day. The lack of water pressure had nothing to do with the razing of our iconic courthouse. If it did, again, the town would have been responsible to answer to state and county authorities. Note: fireproof tarps are used in close urban environments. They should not have been required on our stand alone courthouse.

Back to the original issue, after the rains in May, the excavated trenches sunk to new depths.

This symptom demonstrates poor compaction of the fill after the water soaked soil slumped under pressure, forcing out the air pockets. Published standards for the state and federal jobs require a compaction rate of somewhere between 80 and 90 percent. These lines did not have that compaction and failed to hold up under traffic and soaking after rains.

The condition will be the same once final pavement is applied. The street will not hold up to sustained traffic until the original fill is properly compacted. Wait and watch. Further, the differences between the quality of the water line work and the paving of Springdale Drive are as between manure and chocolate, both paid by taxpayers.

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Hillsboro Street potholes could have been prevented by proper compaction