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Water retailer finds a 'hole new way to work

Posted: November 25, 2008 7:45 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2008 4:59 a.m.
A local water retailer plans to make potholes, not fix them.

And it's going to spend close to $50,000 for a special pothole-making machine.

The good news is that the potholes promise to save Santa Clarita Valley residents thousands of dollars.

"Normally, we'd have a crew of about five, roping off an area, bringing in a backhoe and digging a large hole to find a pipe, and that takes a lot of time," said Stephen L. Cole, general manager of the Newhall County Water District.

Last week, the district approved a motion to purchase the Ditch Witch FX30 Vac System for $48,325.68.

The equipment is expected to arrive next week and is worth every penny, Cole said.

"This is a quick and easy way to look at the appropriate depth for pipe," he said.

The Ditch Witch marks a hole smaller than a manhole cover, then sucks up the earth under it.

It's used to locate such things as buried water lines and sewers - and where they aren't, Cole said.

In mapping out where pipelines are to be installed, the Ditch Witch marks a clear route for pipeline.
Water officials compared Ditch Witch costs to normal hole-digging costs.

The normal cost of digging 10 potholes amounts to $7,185.30, taking into account paving about 200 square feet at a cost of about $2,400, 30 hours of labor at $3,883.50 and 30 hours for the equipment used, costing $900.

The "Ditch Witch" cost for the same job totals $1,874.50, with paving costs limited to $480 for an area of only 40 square feet, 10 hours of labor and 10 hours of equipment use.

"It will save a lot of money in the long run," Cole said. "We'll be using it to replace pipes that have been in the ground for 50-plus years."

The district plans to pay for the machine out of its 2008-09 capital vehicle replacement budget.


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