Defective pipes? Cause sought for two water main ruptures on First Street

by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor

Members of the Rogers City City Council plan to convene in workshop session to delve into a potential issue involving the viability of a mile of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) main under First Street.

What was once one of the roughest stretches of roadway in town is now one of the smoothest, but since MacArthur Construction of Hillman installed the main in 2022, there have been two water main ruptures at the intersections of Huron and First, while the other was in front of Greka’s Tavern near Woodward Avenue, forcing crews to dig holes to make repairs and repave.

The city is interested in an extended warranty and answers to questions as to why this happened twice. Hence, the workshop with members of council, city staff, the contractor and engineer that handled the million-dollar, grant-funded project.

“The pipe split identically in both situations, down the side,” said city manager Joe Hefele. “We are looking for MacArthur to extend the warranty beyond the normal warranty that you would have on the workmanship. 

“Also, there is an opportunity to send that second piece of pipe that we have in and have it tested to determine whether there is a problem with the pipe itself, and to truly determine what caused the rupture.”

Hefele shared the city’s theory of what possibly could have happened.

“When the pipe was being put together at the bell, they were using equipment and just hitting them too hard,” Hefele said. “And there is a certain sand that the pipes are supposed to be bedded in. Typically, the contractor is going to try and do it as efficiently for them as they can. They were trying to use material that was there and screen the rocks out versus hauling sand in, and we had to make decisions on the fly, as to whether or not it meets the standard.”

Since the cost to test the large section of pipe is just over $10,000, Hefele wanted to conduct the workshop with the contractor and engineer before getting to that point.

“To see what the contractor is willing to do and then I think we need to have a workshop where we invite some people into the room or on Zoom to talk about where we are and the options we have, because the last thing we would want is to have 18 more leaks along that stretch and literally go in and redo it all,” said Hefele. 

“It’s the second time MacArthur has messed up,” said councilman Gary Nowak, recalling a city project the contractor worked on many years near the trailer park. It was one of the reasons Nowak voted against hiring MacArthur for this job and was the only “no” vote.

“I don’t know that they messed up,” Hefele responded to the comment. “It could be a faulty pipe.”

“They are supposed to inspect, right?” Nowak asked. “They should know how to put it in.”

Hefele said all the testing procedures were followed.

“PVC pipe is strong stuff, I’ll tell you, it’s thick, it just seems real odd,” said council

man Ken Bielas. 

“I would rather have the conversation where you have the powers that be in the room to discuss it,” said Hefele. “There were a lot of eyes on it when it was going on.”

“We need to do that before the warranty expires,” mayor Scott McLennan added.

“I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, but we just need to protect ourselves,” said Hefele.

The contractor fixed the first leak at Huron and First and did the repaving, but Curtis Excavating did the second leak and the contractor will get the bill in its entirety.

“(The contractor) voiced to me, after the first one happened, that he wanted to get it tested,” said Hefele. He said the cost to test the pipe may be split with the contractor, at the very least, he told council.