Longmont Water Line Contractor Fined $5,000 for Violating EPA Standards

January 17, 2019
A hole is filled with pavement on Baylor Drive where a contractor hired to replace a section of water line failed to adhere to Environmental Protection Agency standards. The contractor, Rocky Mountain Water Works, was paid for the work it completed, but the remaining work on that contract has been rolled forward to this year.

The Longmont Department of Public Works & Natural Resources will have to add last year’s planned water line replacement project to this year’s calendar, after a contractor failed to finish the project and keep the worksite clean enough for federal Environmental Protection Agency standards.

The city had contracted with Rocky Mountain Water Works, a Longmont-based utility construction company, to replace water lines along Baylor Drive and two other areas in the city, according to Jim Angstadt, director of engineering services in the public works and natural resources department.

The department contracts with a company to replace a certain number of feet of water line to keep the system current, Angstadt said. Rocky Mountain Water Works started this project, which Angstadt said had a “pretty aggressive schedule,” in October and was expected to be finished by January.

Rocky Mountain Water Works hasn’t finished its work on Baylor Drive or the two other locations on which it was scheduled to work, and the cleanliness of its worksite (or lack thereof) spurred resident complaints and city fines.

Don Wright said his father-in-law lives in the area where the work was conducted on Baylor Drive and has had to deal with a large amount of mud.

When Wright and his wife went to Baylor Drive for Thanksgiving, shortly after a storm had passed through, he said, “the mud, without exaggeration, was 2 to 3 inches thick on his street and it was up on the sidewalk.”

They couldn’t walk on the sidewalk because the mud was so slippery. Instead, they “parked down a few houses and walked across yards to get to his house.”

Wright said he spoke with two city staff members and the contractor on behalf of his father-in-law, but the problem continued, especially following the storms around Christmas and last week. He eventually spoke with City Manager Harold Dominguez, who said he would reach out to the department.

“What’s going on up there is really unfair to homeowners,” Wright said, adding his father-in-law’s white decorative deer that were displayed in his yard have now turned yellow from the dust.

Angstadt said the contractor “had some labor challenges and (was) not able to provide the crews that we would have liked to have seen.”

The contractor received three city violations and a $5,000 fine for the lack of cleanup. Contractors are required to keep sites clean in accordance with the Clean Water Act under EPA guidelines, so that mud won’t seep into storm drains and into the water system, and Angstadt said Rocky Mountain Water Works didn’t adhere to those requirements.

The city has ended the contract with Rocky Mountain Water Works and Angstadt said he expects the site will be paved this week and cleaned up by the end of next week. This is the first time the city hired Rocky Mountain Water Works for a project, he said.

Wright criticized the amount of time it took the city to take action and end the contract, given that the contractor was violating city and environmental standards. He also questioned why a street sweeper has not been in the area to clean the street in order to prevent mud entering the storm drains.

“It’s like the inspector is helpless or the project manager is helpless, they’re not used to kicking a contractor’s butt,” he said. “Labor shortages can’t excuse these guys moving forward violating all these regulations.”

Angstadt said an inspector and project manager were at the site nearly every day, and an environmental inspector, who could levy fines, began to visit the site every week after the issues became clear.

He also said that usually contractors contract out street sweeping or have their own, but “because of the challenges in the project, we are assisting.” The city is working to send city street sweepers to the area.

Moving forward, Angstadt said the department is going to be looking at its contracts to “ensure we don’t have a repeat” of this situation.

The contractor will be paid for the work it completed, and the rest of the money set aside for the projects will be carried over to this year’s budget. Angstadt said the city plans to have a larger contract due to the work carried over from 2018, which will allow it to hire a larger contractor with more resources.

Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, mstamour@prairiemountainmedia.com

Update hourly