Rocky Terrain Proves No Match for Buckeye on $1.4M NC Project

Mon August 02, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Kerry Lynn Kirby

Given the rolling hill terrain where the old sewer lines lay buried in the earth, it was no surprise that workers would encounter rock during the $1.4-million sewer line replacement project for the town of Columbus, NC.

But the folks at Buckeye Construction Co. have been pleasantly surprised by how perfect their new John Deere 544J wheel loader has been for the job, said Garry Mease, owner and president of the Canton, NC, company.

The wheel loader, purchased in mid-May from West Columbia, SC-based Van Lott Inc., as part of the company’s regular equipment acquisition, turned out to be great for both the rocky terrain they expected and the more-than-expected rainfall, Mease said.

“It works well for the terrain we’re working in down there,” he said “We’ve had some wet conditions as we’re digging, and it’s worked well for that.”

The John Deere wheel loaders are able to work in some rough conditions where some other comparable loaders would stop, said Gene May, territory manager of Van Lott’s, Asheville, NC, office. “The all-wheel drive with the hydraulic front differential lock go right on through,” May said.

In addition to the new loader, Buckeye has had two John Deere 270C excavators, a John Deere 200C excavator, a John Deere 120C excavator and two 544H wheel loaders working on the job, Mease said.

They were all purchased from Van Lott Inc.

“Van Lott’s given us real good service,” Mease said. “And the John Deere equipment has just been really good to Buckeye.”

They’ve had little downtime due to mechanical failures, he said. “It’s just been really good for us.”

The new loader isn’t the only star of this sewer line project, Mease said. The company’s other John Deere wheel loaders and John Deere excavators also have been doing well and turned out to be well suited for the job conditions, he said.

“The dependability of the Deere equipment –– and the product support –– have just been real good for Buckeye,” said May, who said he’s had a working relationship with Mease since he formed Buckeye 17 years ago and even before.

Over the years, he said, Van Lott has helped Buckeye build its stable of John Deere equipment and grow to probably one of the best utility contractors in North Carolina.

“We feel real good about our product and are real thrilled about our relationship with Buckeye and feel like a partner with them,” May said. “We will continue to do what we can to support them so that we can continue to grow together.”

Buckeye was the low-bidder on the Columbus sewer line replacement project, which started in March and involves the installation of 24,000 lineal ft. (7,315 m) of PVC pipe at the intersection of Interstate 26 and Highway 74, Mease said.

The 8-in. through 18-in. (20 through 45.7 cm) sanitary sewer lines are replacing some worn-out lines in the rehabilitation of part of the town’s old sewer system, he said.

“Due to age … gets us all,” Mease said with a chuckle.

There have been approximately 22 workers on the job, working one shift of usually four 10-hour and one 9-hour days, Mease said. That’s actually three crews working simultaneously in order to get the job finished by the end of October.

The three crews are needed “because of the amount of rain we’ve had and short time limit on the project,” he explained.

As of July 21, the project was approximately two-thirds finished, Mease said.

They’re excavating as they go along, making cuts from the top of the ground to the pipe that average 8 to 10 ft. (2.4 to 3 m) he explained. But they haven’t been hauling away the earth.

They’re removing the dirt, laying it on the side of the ditch, installing the pipe, then turning around and putting the dirt back into the ditch and compacting it, Mease said.

They haven’t had to haul away the old sewer line either, he said.

Most of the time, crews are laying the new lines parallel to the old, then leaving the old lines –– a combination of plastic, clay and cast iron the sewer system will abandon in favor of the new lines –– in the ground, Mease said.

The project hasn’t had much of an effect on the surrounding area, said Mease, noting that the project has required minimal road closings. “And, it’s involved very little clearing of wooded areas, though there were some wooded areas covering very old sewer lines, where a lot of infiltration has taken place.”

There’s only one subcontractor on the project, Young Construction Co., of Raleigh, NC, which is doing the boring in road crossings, Mease said.

“It’s just a small part, but it’s a specialty portion of the work,” he said.