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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

City Fires Company Responsible For Repeated Gas Leaks in the Haight

Posted By on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 at 10:19 AM

  • sarahelizamoody/Flickr
Over the past nine months, residents in the Haight have complained about repeated gas line breaks — five in all — that disrupted the neighborhood, opened sinkholes, and delayed a major infrastructure project.

As KQED reports, the city has finally fired Synergy Project Management, the subcontractor responsible for the mishaps, alleging both incompetence and public safety breaches. This follows Synergy's appeal of the city's decision halt the $13.7 million project

The city rarely fires companies involved in public works projects, according to Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon, but in this case it’s easy to see why Synergy raised concerns.

The company hit gas lines five times, causing street closures and gas outages for some in the neighborhood. Public Works halted the project twice. According to hearing officer Tim Leung, Synergy “improperly shored trenches on multiple occasions, which could have led to street collapse, trench collapse, and the injury or death of workers or members to the public.”

Even more alarming, KQED reports that on July 21, Synergy employees opened a manhole at Haight and Pierce streets and dangled a project foreman by his ankles while he removed a plug.

For its part, Synergy blames PG&E for not providing accurate information about gas line locations — a charge PG&E denies. (On a separate note, PG&E executives allegedly ordered the dumping of records related to the 2010 pipeline blast in San Bruno that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.) 

In an October press conference, a representative from the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association said 30 businesses in the neighborhood had been financially affected by the street closures and evacuations. Supervisor London Breed, who represents the Haight, noted during that same presser that Synergy bid $1 million lower than its next competitor. Per Hoodline, Breed told residents that “not only is low-bid a real problem, but the fact that this same contractor just settled three lawsuits with the city and county of San Francisco but still continues to get contracts with the city and county of San Francisco is insane.”

Breed was referring to an incident last year in which a worker was hurt by an excavator at 4th and Harrison streets, as well as another incident in which a pedestrian fell on a forklift that Synergy left on a wheelchair ramp at Haight Street and Buena Vista Avenue.

Breed has called for a hearing into what the city needs to do to ensure underground public works projects are done safely.

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Jeremy Lybarger


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