September 2022 Vol. 77 No. 9



Vermeer Chair Emeritus, Former CEO Bob Vermeer Dies at 78 

Bob Vermeer, former Vermeer CEO and current chair emeritus, died Aug. 17 at the age of 78 after battling cancer, Vermeer Corporation said in a statement. 

The son of Vermeer founder Gary Vermeer, he served as the company CEO from 1989 to 2003. He spent over 40 years as a second-generation owner and top executive of the family-owned and operated company. 

“Bob loved people and his passion for others will continue to be a lasting legacy at Vermeer,” the company said in its statement. 

Under his leadership, sales at Vermeer grew nearly 13 times. He initiated a program to evaluate and coach dealers to higher levels of performance through improved customer relationships. He oversaw key advancements in finance that improved equipment availability and allowed dealers to stock inventory globally, ultimately growing business domestically and outside the United States. 

Vermeer also held positions as the former chairman of the Iowa Business Council and head of the Equipment Manufacturers Institute. In addition, he was a member and officer of several boards, including Central College Board of Trustees, Dordt College Board, Calvin Theological Seminary Board of Trustees and the Pella Chamber of Commerce. In 2016, he was inducted into the AEM Hall of Fame. 

Vermeer founded the Vermeer Scholarship Program more than 30 years ago with his wife Lois and brother Stan. He was also responsible for establishing the “Spirit of Caring” award, which celebrated a Vermeer employee each year that best exemplified the merit. He spearheaded numerous employee and community service programs including the Vermeer Chaplain Program and the Vermeer Charitable Foundation Scholarship Program 

Houston-Area Flood Officials Consider $30 Billion Tunnel Project 

The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) is considering a massive underground tunnel project to alleviate the region’s centuries-long flooding, according to the Stormwater Report. 

HCFCD manages stormwater on approximately 41,800 square miles of land in the greater Houston area. Planning for the project, which would cost around $30 billion, began shortly after Hurricane Harvey flooded more than 100,000 properties in the HCFCD service area in 2017. 

The agency recently completed the second phase of a long-term investigation into whether a series of eight large-diameter stormwater tunnels located as deep as 100 feet underground would be a feasible and cost-effective option. 

HCFCD Assistant Director of Operations Scott Elmer explained that while building the proposed tunnels would be both costly and complex in comparison to aboveground flood-control measures, the project’s benefits would benefit the entire HCFCD service area. 

Furthermore, as available space for aboveground infrastructure shrinks, exploring underground options could provide new flexibility for stormwater management in the region’s most developed and flood-prone areas. The current proposal calls for 130 miles of underground tunnels with diameters of up to 45 feet. These tunnels have the capacity to collect and transport up to 6.5 billion gallons of water at a time. 

The feasibility study, which was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, identified 11 watersheds out of the 23 that encompass HCFCD’s service area where underground tunnels would likely be more cost-effective than aboveground alternatives. 

Primoris Services Corporation Acquires PLH Group for $470 Million 

Primoris Services Corporation announced that it has completed its acquisition of PLH Group in an all-cash transaction valued at $470 million. 

Primoris, a provider of specialty contracting services, said the transaction aligns with its strategic focus on higher-growth, higher-margin markets and expands its capabilities in the utility markets, including power delivery, communications, and gas utilities. 

PLH Group is a utility-focused specialty services company. As a result of the acquisition, the majority of PLH operations will be incorporated into Primoris’ Utilities Segment, with the remaining operations going into the Energy/Renewables and Pipeline segments. 

“The addition of PLH is an important step in enhancing both the size and scale of our operations in the Power Delivery and Gas Utilities markets,” said Primoris president and CEO Tom McCormick. 

California Submits Proposal for 45-Mile Water Tunnel 

A new plan to reroute how water moves from wetter Northern California to drier Southern California would ferry some of it through a single, 45-mile underground tunnel, wrapping around the state’s existing water delivery system and dumping it into the main aqueduct that flows south to vast swaths of farmland and millions of people. 

The proposal calls for construction of one tunnel to take water from the Sacramento River, the state’s largest, to the California Aqueduct for delivery further south. It’s scaled back from a two-tunnel plan and the latest iteration of a project that has been talked about and planned in some form, but never constructed, for about half a century. 

State water officials say a tunnel is badly needed to modernize the state’s water infrastructure in the face of climate change, which scientists say is likely to cause both prolonged droughts and major deluges of rain and snow. It would also better shield the state’s water supply from the risk of an earthquake that could cause levees to crumble and ocean salt water to flood into the system. 

Though California is in the third year of a punishing drought, it saw record rainfall last October and another major dump of rain and snow in December, some of which the state was unable to capture. 

Officials did not release a price tag. A prior estimate for a different single-tunnel route put it at about $16 billion. It would be paid for by water agencies that contract with the state to use it. 



Dredging Company Fined $1 Million for CWA Violations After Nicking Oil Pipeline 

A Houston dredging company has been ordered to pay a $1 million fine for an oil spill that occurred when a subcontractor cut through an oil pipeline during barrier island restoration work off Louisiana in 2016. 

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, which describes itself as the nation’s largest dredging company, was sentenced for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA), according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans. 

Great Lakes “recklessly violated regulations designed to protect the environment and then tried to hide their actions,” said Kimberly Bahney, special agent in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal enforcement program in Louisiana. 

The spill occurred when a marsh buggy hit a pipeline while digging and moving sediment to create part of the island’s new outline, releasing an estimated 5,300 gallons. The restoration at Chenier Ronquille, a barrier island east of Grand Isle, was paid for by money from the 2010 BP oil spill. 

As part of the plea, Great Lakes said it violated state and federal laws by failing to tell companies about continuing work near their pipelines. A statement filed with the guilty plea also said its failure to properly supervise an employee whose marsh buggy punctured the pipeline was a cause of the spill. 

Car Swallowed by Sinkhole Result of Water Main Break in Boston 

A break in a 20-inch (water main in Boston in August sent water rushing down a city street, formed a sinkhole that swallowed a vehicle, and flooded area basements, city officials said. 

The burst pipe in the city’s South End occurred on a water main that the city said is about 150 years old, but which was updated in the 1970s. The flood also buckled the roadway, which was closed to traffic. 

“It was a significant amount of water over a short period of time,” commission spokesperson Dolores Randolph said. Service to area buildings was not affected and no one was hurt. 

The vehicle, seen in television video tilting into the sinkhole, was removed later in the morning. 

Judge Declares Mistrial in Engineers’ Flint Water Trial 

A judge declared a mistrial after jurors said they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict in a dispute over whether two engineering firms should bear some responsibility for Flint’s lead-contaminated water. 

Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman, known as LAN, were accused of not doing enough to get Flint to treat the highly corrosive water or to urge a return to a regional water supplier. 

The eight-person jury met for roughly seven days after hearing evidence for months. The trial centered on the engineering firms and the effects of lead on the children, not all Flint residents. The result was being closely watched because there are other cases pending against Veolia and LAN 

The firms were not part of a landmark $626 million deal involving property owners, thousands of residents of the majority-Black city, the state of Michigan and other parties. 

Flint’s water became contaminated in 2014-15 because water pulled from the Flint River wasn’t treated to reduce the corrosive effect on lead pipes. Citing cost, managers appointed by then-Gov. Rick Snyder stopped using water from a Detroit agency and switched to the river while awaiting a new pipeline to Lake Huron. 

Energy Transfer Settles Residential Water Contamination Case 

Dallas-based Energy Transfer pleaded no contest to criminal charges that its Mariner East pipeline system in Pennsylvania polluted waterways and residential water wells across hundreds of miles. 

Energy Transfer agreed to independent testing of homeowners’ water and promised to remediate contamination in a settlement of two separate criminal cases brought by the Pennsylvania attorney general. Under a plea deal, the company will also pay $10 million to restore watersheds and streams along the 

The company’s Mariner East 1, Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X pipelines are designed to carry propane, ethane and butane from the Marcellus and Utica Shale gas fields to a refinery processing center and export terminal in Marcus Hook, a suburb of Philadelphia. Construction was completed in February. 

Under the Aug. 5 plea agreement, residents who live near the pipeline and have private water are entitled to request independent testing. More than 800 residents along the pipelines’ route were notified of the availability of the testing given two weeks to sign up. 

EPA Issues Guidance to Help Communities Locate Lead Water Pipes 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released guidance to help communities and water utilities identify lead pipes that connect drinking water service to homes and other buildings. 

The action marks a key milestone in implementing the Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan. Together with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the new EPA guidance will help water utilities comply with the requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions that went into effect in December 2021. 

Under the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions, water systems are required to prepare and maintain an inventory of service line materials by October 16, 2024. The EPA’s new “Guidance for Developing and Maintaining a Service Line Inventory” is intended to help water systems develop and maintain service line inventories, support notifications to consumers served by lead pipes, and provide states with needed information for oversight and reporting to EPA. 

The EPA said its new guidance will help facilitate investment of $15 billion in funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) that is dedicated to lead service line replacement. BIL funding can be used for lead service line replacement projects and associated activities directly connected to the identification, planning, design, and replacement of lead service lines, including development of service line inventories themselves.

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