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Owner bitter over Dig Safe complaint

August 4, 2011

WOONSOCKET — Representatives of Coventry Building Wrecking Co. say the city should have given them some consideration for helping clean up after the Alice Mill fire instead of lodging a “Dig Safe” complaint against the company over a messy sewer break at another mill-site demolition last week.
Proprietor John Baccaire said CBW obtained valid clearances from Dig Safe for demolition at Seville Dyeing Company within a day or two of April 20.
The company had equipment at the site before the 60-day expiration on the Dig Safe authorization, but it left to help out with demolition after a fire destroyed the Alice Mill, a couple of hundred yards away, on June 10.
“They came here and asked for help,” Baccaire said at the Seville site Wednesday. “I'm not going to say no. I didn't seek any payment for that work, and it cost me $11,000 to blow up the tower.”
Perhaps the Dig Safe authorization lapsed, said Baccaire, but it was because he was busy helping the city with an emergency and he shouldn't be punished for that.
The state Department of Environmental Management says CBW was doing excavation work at the defunct Seville Dyeing plant last Friday when a piece of heavy equipment ruptured a buried sewer main, causing nearly a million gallons of partially treated sewage to spill into the Blackstone River.
Woonsocket's Solid Waste Supt. Michael Debroisse later discovered that CBW's Dig Safe clearances for the job did not appear valid and lodged a complaint with the state Division of Public Utilities and Carriers.
Dig Safe System, Inc., is a regional clearinghouse designed to prevent construction accidents affecting public utilities such as sewer mains, electrical cables and gas lines. Companies are supposed to notify Dig Safe before excavation work, so the organization can alert utility operators, giving them a chance to mark the location of their underground fixtures.
State law requires anyone planning such work to obtain a Dig Safe clearance beforehand. Violations are punishable by a fine of $350 for a first offense, and up to $2,500 for subsequent offenses.
Dig Safe violation records may also support civil claims for damages, which the city intends to pursue. Debroisse said the city wants to be reimbursed for the cleanup, spill containment and repair of the smashed-up sewer main — work expected to exceed $10,000.
Baccaire said he'll fight any financial claims, saying the city should share the blame for the accident.
Dig Safe notified the city of the Seville demolition so it could mark the location of the sewer line in question, but there were no visible marks before the accident, Baccaire asserted.
Debroisse disputes that. Debroisse said that even though the location of utilities was marked in April, the lines were still visible when city workers visited Seville on Monday, after the spill was cleaned up.

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