How To Incompetently Not Find A Water Main

At about eight o’clock yesterday morning, my phone line went dead. Obviously, this brought down my ADSL service with it.

This isn’t entirely uncommon – given the age of the copper phone lines in my street – (predominantly installed in the 1950’s when the estate was established) – and the slightly down hill nature of my street, when it rains the Telstra pits often fill up with water and short all the phone lines until the water drains away.

Except it wasn’t raining yesterday, so I was scratching my head.

I wasn’t home at the time, but I could see from tools provided by my ISP that the ADSL was down, and calling my home number gave a busy signal.

I did have a theory though.

In September, we received a notice from our local water authority, Barwon Water, that a company named Infratec would be, between “early” and “late” October, connecting temporary water mains in our street while the actual water main was replaced.

There have been many incidents of ruptured mains in our street over the last few years, so this seemed like a good idea.

They never actually showed up for the first time until late October. They connected up all the temporary water pipes – (hoses running down the street and into each water meter) – and in the process of the work managed to sever a gas main.

Incompetency number one.

They weren’t seen again until yesterday – and of course we are now in the middle of November, some weeks after the work was supposed to be finished.

Given they showed up yesterday morning at about the same time as my phone line went dead, you can probably see where this is going.

It has become apparent that they have severed the phone lines in a number of places.

Incompetency number two.

Here’s a hole in the ground in front of a house a little up the street. See the severed lead-in phone line to that house? (Click photo for a larger view).

Here’s another picture of the same hole, showing clearly where they have pre-identified the two phone lead-in lines emanating from the Telstra pit – (which still has ‘PMG’ on it, showing its age) – including one that leads directly into the hole.

Yet they still dug the hole, knowing the line was there, and severed it. And as you’ll note from the first photo, they didn’t manage to actually find a water main in that hole.

Incompetency number three.

So seriously, what the ‘eff Infratec? Are you really that bad?

Even if Telstra fix the lines today, how confident am I that Infratec won’t dig another hole and sever some more phone lines in the street as the work progresses over the coming weeks?

Not very.

UPDATE: 20/11/2012 13:02: The phone line was restored at around 10:50am this morning. Given Infratec’s record so far, lets see how long it takes them to do it again as they move along the street!

  • Hi Michael,

    Barwon Water would like to apologise for the disruption to your phone and ADSL services, and the inconvenience this has caused you. Thanks for being patient while the mains replacement takes place, too.

    Thank you also for bringing this issue to our attention. We genuinely appreciate you letting us know about your experience – it is important for us to get feedback so we can improve our services.

    Since your tweets and blog post, we have followed up with our contractor, Infratec, and can offer the following information on the water main replacement in your neighbourhood.

    – Infratec regrets accidentally severing the telephone line. Somewhat in their defence, this cable was not housed in plastic conduit (as is the norm), was only 300 mm deep, (rather than the standard 450 mm) and was not quite where Telstra had indicated. Infratec were, in fact, digging to locate this cable (rather the water main).

    – Infratec assures us they did not sever any gas lines during the establishment of the temporary service pipes.

    – In regard to the timing of the work, we sent a letter in August stating the work was expected to be carried out in October. The temporary services were established at this time but, unfortunately, the job did not start due to delays caused by other works. We sent a follow-up letter on November 8, advising that construction would now take place between mid November and early December. Work began on November 19.

    Once again, our apologies for the disruptions to your services, and our thanks for your patience.

    If you need any further information please feel free to give us a call on 1300 656 007.


    Emergencies and faults:

    Information on the water mains replacement program

    • Thanks guys – I’ll make a clarification on the gas main issue. A neighbour who was at home at the time of the initial rollout of the temporary mains assures me that the gas service was interrupted at the time, and I do recall having to re-light all of our pilot flames. I perhaps should not have used the word “sever” in this instance.

      With respect to the phone lines not being where they expected, while this might be true, it was clear from the white spray lines on the ground leading from the Telstra pit, that they had identified where they THOUGHT the lines were – even if they thought incorrectly. To go ahead and dig where they thought they were seems more than a little non-sensical.

      Once again, thanks for your feedback.