COVID-19 spreads among contractors, causing delay for drainage project on Second Street in Rifle

A drainage rehabilitation project on West Second Street is delayed following an outbreak of COVID-19 among a crew of contractors, says the city of Rifle.

“This is the first project I’ve ever had delayed because some of the contractors were sick,” said Rifle City Manager Scott Hahn.

Silt-based company Eco-Matrix, LLC was hired by the city in May to rehabilitate a drainage culvert known to create mud and flooding issues at a nearby apartment complex. The pipe – infrastructure dating back pre-1960s, according to city civil engineer Craig Spaulding – is to receive a new storm subliner within its inner walls.

Eco-Matrix was awarded the bid at $46,562. Requests for comment from the contractor were not returned.

The original excavation of the multifamily complex, built some time in the 1970s, undermined the culvert itself, said Spaulding. Because of this, years of corrosion have created rusting and holes within the pipe.

The situation has also caused a loss of vegetation along an adjoining pathway, said Hahn.

“It was something that was approved and it’s one of those, ‘Now you know why they have certain requirements and planning,’ and it was one that maybe should’ve been followed then,” Spaulding said. Nonetheless, it’s ours to fix now.”

The issue was identified some time in 2019, said Hahn.

“They shouldn’t have built the (apartment complex), but that’s hindsight 2020,” Hahn said. “In my opinion it’s always been a problem because it doesn’t have the proper drainage typography.”

Due to the culvert’s deterioration over the years, the city first had to execute months of prep work, Spaulding explained. He said the city had to clean out about 70 feet of piping before the storm liner could be installed.

In addition, the sublining material itself is more uncommon, so it took longer to get shipped in, said Hahn.

“We’re a bit at risk, because if you had a big rain event, it could wash a lot out up there and cause some damage possibly,” Hahn said. “It’s a very risky situation, so we try to do our best to eliminate as much water from that hillside as possible.”

Rifle’s project isn’t the only one seeing delays. Because of the outbreak at Eco-Matrix, which conducts projects across Colorado, their entire schedule has been affected, according to Spaulding.

“They were out for two weeks, but because of the business of their schedule it kind of put them behind,” Spaulding said. “They have other projects. It kind of messed them all up across the state.”

The city anticipates the project on West Second Street to start some time within the month. Because the culvert is isolated from any city right-of-ways, there will be no road closures during the project.

“I would hope that it starts before we get any precipitation,” Hahn said. “That would destabilize the soils around the pipe, so as soon as possible.”

Once the subliner is installed, Spaulding said it will add another 50 years lifespan to the culvert.

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