After Google Fiber Crews Bust Water Main — Twice — Nashville Tabulates All Fiber-Related Damages | Nashville Public Radio

After Google Fiber Crews Bust Water Main — Twice — Nashville Tabulates All Fiber-Related Damages

Nov 1, 2016

Members of the Metro Council are demanding a full accounting of the damage done by the crews installing high-speed fiber internet lines across Nashville.

The inquiry comes after contractors for Google Fiber twice damaged a 36-inch water main in North Nashville, causing streets to flood and homes to suffer from low water pressure. Initial findings show there have been dozens of other lesser-known incidents.

Metro Water Services provided a list of 71 incidents since August 2015 involving several fiber providers and numerous contractors. (A separate memo attributes 82 water main breaks to fiber-related work. It wasn’t immediately clear why the counts differ.)

Damage to water infrastructure has already topped $250,000.

And that number will rise.

Estimates have not arrived for 12 incidents. In addition, the total does not capture the recent North Nashville water main problems, which were determined so critical that a contractor was called in for repairs, instead of the city, according to Metro Water.

To date, the contractors who caused damage have repaid $24,588 to Metro Water.

This excerpt from a Metro Council memo shows the acceleration of water main breaks caused by fiber internet installations.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

In a statement to WPLN, Google Fiber emphasized the scope of its work, “one of the largest infrastructure projects in Nashville’s history — built in just a matter of years.”

“Construction is inherently disruptive, but we always look for ways to minimize disruption and be good neighbors,” the company said.

Google Fiber says its goal is 3,200 miles of fiber-optic cables. By comparison, Metro Water reports that it has 3,000 miles of underground water mains.

Council Anticipated Damages

The memo sent Monday to the Metro Council goes on to answer 18 questions about damages, how work is monitored and what precautions are taken to minimize disruptions.

In calculating damages, Metro Water told the council that repair bills account for overhead costs, road paving, and the time police officers are paid to direct traffic.

The tabulation does not, however, calculate for lost water. And Metro has not tracked damages to private property owners.

The most costly single incident repaired by the city cost $45,123 after an incident in April on D.B. Todd Boulevard at Morena Street. The database also organizes the incidents by council district. Districts 19 (downtown), 20 (Green Hills), and 25 (Charlotte Park and The Nations) saw the most damages. 

Metro Water notes that permit data and checks with the state’s Tennessee One Call program, 811, identify underground infrastructure. When it is not properly marked, contractors can be cleared. However, the companies can face additional penalties of up to $5,000 per incident.

Some council members have been worrying about damage for months. That’s one reason the city amended its One Touch Make Ready ordinance — which governs how fiber is attached to poles — to require crews to insure their work up to $1 million dollars, which is twice the typical amount for city projects.

In pushing for that requirement, Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher pointed to damages.

“We don’t know where it stands with Google Fiber reimbursing our city for the damage they’ve already done for our infrastructure,” she said before one vote.

Google Fiber said that its teams use the state’s 811 service to avoid problems and use “less invasive” construction methods when possible.

The company’s hotline to report problems is 877-454-6959.