Construction Equipment GLOBAL

Volvo conquers flood and mud in Utah

Next to the Jordan River, in the US state of Utah, a team of Volvo Construction Equipment machines triumphed over floodwater and deep mud to successfully install 10.9km of sewer pipe.

Volvo excavators set 4,309kg air-vac vaults and pipe weighing 16,782kg.

Utah Lake is situated at the base of three mountain ranges – Wasatch Range to the east, Traverse Mountains to the north and Lake Mountain to the west. It is the third largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes and acts as a reservoir for the tremendous amount of water that runs off the mountains. Utah Lake is an essential water source for high-altitude communities and as such its water level is regulated – the same goes for its only means of drainage, the Jordan River. It was next to this river that Whitaker Construction Company was faced with the challenge of installing 10.9km of 1m diameter sewer pipe, in a 13.7m wide and 4.8m deep trench. This was never going to be an easy job. The family-owned utility contractor – one of the biggest in Utah – knew it would be faced with saturated ground conditions and an insurmountable quantity of mud when it was hired by the South Valley Sewer District to replace force mains between a sewage lift station in South Jordan City, to the Jordan Basin Water Reclamation facility in Riverton, Utah.

Diverting challenges

With a challenging job on their hands, Mike Whitaker, operations manager for Whitaker Construction, and Jared Whitaker, project manager for the company, knew they needed durable machines that wouldn’t let them down. Once the water level at Utah Lake reaches a ‘compromised level’, the floodgates open and the water travels up the Jordan River, through the southern portion of Utah Valley and into the Great Salt Lake. The overflow water from Utah Lake, along with the mud that followed it, presented interesting challenges for Whitaker Construction as they worked downstream. Having to divert the river in some places, cross it in others, and work in mud 1.2m deep required the team to think on their feet, react quickly and put their equipment to the test.

Using Volvo articulated haulers and excavators provided cost and time savings.One, two, three – lift!

Whitaker used one Volvo EC360C and two EC460C crawler excavators, two A30E articulated haulers and two L110F wheel loaders. The excavators were used to move more than 90,000m3 of soil and 70,000 tons of rock for trench backfill, in order to install the new pipelines. The same machines were also used to set 4,309kg air-vac vaults and pipe weighing 16,782kg. “If we can pick up a heavy piece with two Volvo excavators, sometimes three, we would rather do that than hire a crane company to come in,” explains Mike. “It translates into huge savings on your job. You’re not paying for standby time on a crane and you’re able to keep everything moving with a very short adjustment to your backfill operation.”

The two Volvo haulers gave a strong performance. Mike explained that relying on the off road capabilities of these machines, rather than building and maintaining a high quality haul road, saved the company time and money. “The Volvo articulated hauler has a higher ground clearance than its competitors which is particularly useful in muddy conditions,” says Mike. “Other brands of hauler can run through 1.2m of mud but if you’re dragging your axles it just adds to the resistance – and that doesn’t help your plight when you’re in that deep.”

Without Volvo excavators on site, flooding would have occurred and the temporary cofferdam would have been destroyed.Flood prevention team

One of the biggest challenges Whitaker faced was dealing with the unexpectedly large amount of water released from Utah Lake during its work cycle downstream. The team was originally expecting a release of 14.1m3/s of water but it turned out to be 33.9m3/s. “We put in two 2.1m CMPs, two 1m HTP pipes, and we also had a culvert open canal to divert 14.1m3/s,” says Jared. “Without the Volvo EC360C and EC460C here on site we couldn’t have kept up with the debris, or been able to remove everything we had to in order to get out of this river and avoid flooding. It would have flooded and the temporary cofferdam would have washed away, which would have meant the river needed dredging – a costly and time-consuming process.”

Driving growth

Since Whitaker’s inception in 1953, a major force driving its growth has been the decision to keep expanding its fleet of equipment – ensuring the company is continually adding to its capabilities. “Growing our Volvo fleet has helped to grow our business,” says Mike. “This project is the perfect example of Whitaker proving its ability to successfully take on large projects in difficult terrain with the help of Volvo Construction Equipment machines.” 

Text: Charlie Ebers

Picture 1: Volvo excavators set 4,309kg air-vac vaults and pipe weighing 16,782kg.

Picture 2:
Using Volvo articulated haulers and excavators provided cost and time savings.

Picture 3: Without Volvo excavators on site, flooding would have occurred and the temporary cofferdam would have been destroyed.


Tiffany Cheng

Director, External Communications
Volvo Construction Equipment

Brian O'Sullivan

Tel: +44 7733350307