HDD Vital to Flood Relief Project in Minnesota

The Straight River normally winds lazily throughout southern Minnesota, but in September 2010, southeastern Minnesota, including the community of Faribault, was devastated by torrential rains. The flooding hit the region, closing businesses and roads, damaging homes, destroying bridges and dams and causing an enormous amount of damage to personal property and community infrastructure.

Amazingly, on the first day of the flood, Sept. 24, 2010, the situation in Faribault seemed bad, but not horrible. To the people of Faribault, they felt like they dodged a bullet. While communities further south were inundated with water, the Faribault Daily News said the Faribault community “escapes the worst of the flooding” and reported that the city parks were the only city infrastructure that saw “widespread closure.”

As the 24th turned into the 25th, however, things began to change rapidly and Faribault joined its downstream neighbors in getting overwhelmed by the rain swelled river. One area in town that was especially hard hit was the Faribault City Water Reclamation Facility. Although workers at the plant originally thought, and reported to City Council, they would be able to save the facility, they had to stop their fight and give in to the raging river less than an hour after that report. Proving just how fluid these situations are, the City still thought the facility did not receive any major damage, according to the Fairibault Daily News.  

However, it turned out the facility was heavily damaged; multiple lines connecting the community to the facility were destroyed and for a time the community had to dump waste directly into the river. To remedy these issues and fix the problems they were facing at their facility, the City of Faribault chose to partner with Ellingson Companies for fast, high-quality completion of this emergency flood relief sewer project.

“It was a tough situation,” said Ellingson Companies chief operating officer Jeremy Ellingson. “Living in this area, it was clear just how much damage the flooding caused and we are happy we could do our part to help the people in Faribault get back on their feet.”

Setting up on the west side of the river, Ellingson Companies used a Ditch Witch JT100 directional drill to install close to 1,500 lf of HDPE pipe. The six-person crew had to drill two different 24-in. HDPE DR 11 siphon lines and two different 18-in. HDPE DR 11 siphon lines under the Straight River, which was still experiencing flood conditions, to connect to the treatment plant.

The flooded river was not the only obstacle Ellingson Companies had to overcome. The existing, but damaged structures and the damaged pipe were still onsite. The structures were not only an installation hindrance but also needed to be removed. The damaged pipe also caused a number of logistical issues that Ellingson’s team was able to work through to install the new HDPE within inches of the old pipe allowing for easier connection to the treatment facility.

Staging of the new pipe also proved problematic. “Our crew did a great job under very difficult circumstances,” said Ellingson Companies trenchless division manager Jason Gillard. “The site conditions were far from ideal and our crew came up with a number of very good solutions to tackle the problems we were facing.”

To get around the cramped space at the treatment plant, the Ellingson crew devised an ingenious system to properly stage the pipe for installation. The staged pipe provided a tremendous visual during construction with multiple cranes hoisting the pipe above the ground to maintain access to the site and weave around the permanent, and undamaged, infrastructure at the facility.

Onsite Work

Ellingson Companies started project construction on Oct. 18, 2010, less than one month after the catastrophic flood. The six-person crew worked long hours during the week and on the weekend to make sure the job was completed in a short time frame. “Because of the emergency aspect of this project, we bid it on Oct. 12 and started shortly after that,” said Jeremy Ellingson. “Coordinating everything from subcontractors, materials, equipment and crews in such a short time frame was difficult.”

Ellingson Companies completed drilling on the project on Oct. 28 and the final aspects of the project, including connections and fittings were completed by Nov. 5. Tim Murray, the director of public works and city engineer for Faribault, was impressed by his entire staff and all the contractors who worked on the project.

“What happened on this project is a real testament to the hours and hard work put in by all the contractors and city staff,” said Murray.  “It’s amazing to think that it was only 49 days from when the day the disaster hit our facility to the day that everything was back up and running normally.”

Ellingson Companies, which specializes in agricultural drainage, directional drilling, cured-in-place pipe repair, pipe bursting, utility plowing and a wide variety of trenchless technologies, partnered with the City of Faribault, ADI from Minot, N.D., for fusion of the large HDPE and BCM Construction of Faribault, Minn., for the final hookup to the treatment plant. These partnerships and the hard work of the Ellingson Companies crew helped the people of Faribault permanently connect to the facility without further complication or delay.

Michael S. Schnell coordinates marketing and government affairs for Ellingson Companies.

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