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Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

  • 1.  Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 04 July 2018 02:40
    ​At Goulburn Council we are currently engaged in replacing damaged sections of footpath within our city limits.  During this work we frequently uncover resedential gas services (or some times mains) which are touching the bottom of the footpath slab, with sometimes as little as 40mm cover from the top of the slab.  Jemena is the main service provider, and we are entering into negotiations as to who will pay to lower shallow services.

    The works requre excavation to 200mm depth in order to base up for the new concrete slab to the original levels, which cannot be done in a safe manner without lowering these services. Council considers this replacing an existing asset, not new construction as the leves of the finished path are not changed.  As the services are a hazard to future workers and menbers of the public doing works around their property, has anyone had any luck getting Jemena to lower the services at their cost to the correct depth?

    Martin Wragge-Morley
    Construction Superintendent
    Goulburn Mulwaree Council

  • 2.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 04 July 2018 21:56
    The question appears to be:  Should you or your contractors be liable for high risk work around other owners assets?
    The Risk will be the determining factor here.   Who owns the asset?

    ​I would question if there are, or were, recommended/mandated minimum depths associated with this type of infrastructure installation?
    And did the installation meet the appropriate requirements at that time?

  • 3.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 05 July 2018 00:33
    You quite right Andrew. Also, If the services did not meet the required standard (for Depth) then I would proceed with lowering the services to the required depth and invoice the Service authority for the cost.  Best to alert them of the problem and give them the option of rectifying the problem themselves.

  • 4.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 05 July 2018 21:22
    ​Morning all, we have had the same issue with gas, communication and water services being much higher than the legal depth they should be buried. I can advise that the gas authority is usually very responsive to addressing the issue however Sydney Water and Telstra have both baulked at doing anything about it and will usually charge Council if repairs are required.

  • 5.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 05 July 2018 21:22
    ​When the asset owner built theirs infrastructure, shouldn't they required to obtain permit from council to work on road reserve.
    If the permit to work on road reserve was granted, on what basis permit was it granted without checking possible future clash with council infrastructure.

  • 6.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 05 July 2018 00:32
    ​The utlity company is responsible for ensuring their assets in the public road corridor are constructed to the rquired standards, including depth.
    This is a Health and Safety issue.

  • 7.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 05 July 2018 18:41
    Hi Martin,
    Utility services are commonly found in locations where the host asset cannot be safely maintained.  The Work Health and Safety Act sets the requirement upon designers to ensure the safety of maintenance activity when constructing a work. But too often the safety of our crews undertaking road maintenance is being compromised by the hazardous placement of utility conduits by others.  Road pavements, footpaths and stormwater drainage are assets with defined dimensions, particularly depth, which should be able to be maintained without encountering hazards due to the proximity of other's utility conduits that are hosted in our roads.

    Utility authorities will advise the desirable clearance required for safety around their asset, but they have often not placed their asset so as to assure that same clearance distance for the renewal of pavement layers of roads and footpaths.  Too often high voltage power conduits, water mains and high pressure gas mains are laid too close (and even through) stormwater conduits creating hazards for the asset owners who need to renew or repair deteriorated assets. Compounding our problem is the fact that stormwater drainage can only be located at grade, so the choices for relocations are highly limited.

    The placement of individual dwelling service conduits is even more commonly hazardous.  One recent event found the known gas service line in the footpath, but that pipe was cut by the road pavement saw preparing the way for further hand digging to find the service. The pipe was discovered at the interface of the asphalt surfacing and the pavement gravel base. The hazard to the workers was created by the placement of the service pipe within the road pavement asset. It was not at a safe clearance below the underside of the road pavement. Jemena accepted their costs for their repair, but the service is yet to be relocated to eliminate the hazard.

    I contend that every asset owner has the duty to assure the safety of renewal and maintenance of the host assets around their asset.  If an asset is located hazardously close to a host asset, they should provide the way to control or eliminate the hazard so that renewal or maintenance work can be safely undertaken.  A hierarchy of hazard might be applied - the more hazardous your asset is, the greater your responsibility for placing it safely away from other's assets, and thereafter maintaining that separation clearance.

    Rick Jarvis

  • 8.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 08 July 2018 18:51
    ​Hello Rick

    It would be good if the agencies of higher levels of government would follow this.

    Some are co operative, others not.

    Telstra will happily tell you it is your fault they put a conduit through an existing stormwater line and also it is your cost to fix it. They will also tell you their services were laid at the correct depth, and the current lack of cover is because Council has lowered the footpath, regardless of the obvious age of the kerb and gutter being a lot more than the time since the conduit was manufactured.

    Apparently the Federal Communications Act in brief is Telstra is right and it is all your fault.

    At least we can appreciate the willingness of some to work together for the greater good.

    Jim Turner

  • 9.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 09 July 2018 02:45
    ​Thank you for all the responses so far, I can see that this is a very common issue with very real consequences from both a safety and a financial standpoint.

    Have any councils managed to get Jemena to lower resedential gas services at thir cost when they are found to be at a non standard depth?

    I am starting our negotiations with Jemena today, and will post back with their reponse to the matter.

  • 10.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 12 August 2018 20:44
    Hi Martin,

    I'm interested to know how you went with this. I deal with this all the time. My approach is to be diplomatic and try and point out the non-conforming nature of the service and try and get the utility to see reason.

    I agree with the comments that you really need to spend resources on compliance at the time of installation, however this rarely occurs.

    Matthew Holt
    Construction & Maintenance Engineer
    Northern Beaches Council (NSW)
    t 02 9942 2843 m 0466 926 193

  • 11.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 10 July 2018 21:14
    This all sounds great guys and yes you can argue all you want, but I will be very surprised if you will be able to get an asset owner to pay for the cost of lowering there own service that has been installed years ago.

    My suggestion is that you all become more proactive and insect these assets as they are being installed in your municipality, as I can tell you this is not something that has just happened in the past, but that it is still happening today by NBN and other dodgy contractors.

    Ben Minutoli
    Geelong Cable Locations

  • 12.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 15 August 2018 22:17
    ​The gas company has given an interesting response, where they have said that it is conicls fault that the services are shallow as the soils are reactive and have eroded over time. repsonse below:

    I refer to your email below.  Jemena does not accept that the gas services have been "improperly installed".Jemena considers that it is more likely that there has been a change in the condition of the footpath levels over time, such as the cover being eroded or altered by Council works or weather impact, settlement, or due to the reactive nature of the Goulburn soil causing subsidence, reducing cover of the gas service.

    The works that Council is requesting Jemena undertake are, in Jemena's view, Council initiated and therefore will need to be Council funded.  But for the Council's remediation works, Jemena would not need to undertake the works and would instead be asking for Council, at the Council's cost, to ensure the footpaths are remediated to prior (higher) levels to preserve the integrity of the gas services. 


    Due to the factors highlighted above, Jemena asks that the Council take such matters into account for future footpath remediation works to ensure that Jemena's gas services do not become exposed or impacted, giving rise to potential safety issues in other areas.


    To facilitate moving forward with Council's request, I attach a New Job Request Form for your completion, and upon receipt of the completed document I will progress your construction works within Jemena. An overview of this process is as follows:


    • New Job Form enables an Inquiry to be raised in our SAP system and allocated a Jemena reference number;
    • Inquiry released to Jemena's engineers for review and high level design;
    • Project coordinator appointed to review and build scope and statement of work and obtain a price from our approved subcontractors;
    • Scope and price provided to me to issue a Letter of Offer (LOO) to Council;
    • Council accepts the LOO, and executes the signing page returning it to me;
    • I arrange for an invoice to be issued to Council;
    • Council is then required to pay for the works as per the invoice; and
    • Jemena schedules and delivers the works.

  • 13.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 19 August 2018 17:36
    ​I have seen incidents of gas being drilled through drainage pipes
    which presents some interesting possibilities.
    My suggestion is to report all potential dangerous situations to the gas company
    and request that it has a potential risk and they need to inform their insurers of the risk.
    I am not a lawyer but I believe that it is up to the gas provider to insure the integrity of  the system during all foreseeable events.

  • 14.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 19 August 2018 17:36
    In NSW, I draw your attention to...
    They have a useful publication that includes allocation and depths:

    Low pressure gas is more than about 475mm cover, and from what you say, if you found a low pressure gas main just below 200mm than it would have taken about 250mm of erosion!

    Sheldon Consulting Pty Ltd

  • 15.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 30 August 2018 21:01
    ​Thanks Grant, that was very helpful.  I spoke to the Street Opening Coordination Councils representative who happened to be at a conference with the head of Jemena.  He informed me that if you tell Jemena about a non spec service they have to inform their insurer, so I have passed that reqest on to Jemena, and they are now moving towards lowering the services at their cost.

    I am meeting them at the end of the week to come to an arrangement on the matter, so I will update you all once it is resolved.

    Martin Wragge-Morley

  • 16.  RE: Shallow gas services - who is responsible for lowering?

    Posted 10 October 2018 19:04
    To update you all on how the negotiations went, Jemena have agreed to lower all the services in question at their own cost.  as well as this they are willing to lower all lead ins which are shallower than 350mm from the surface, which are in the way of this year's capital footpath maintenance works, and even the lead ins blocking the construction of new build footpath works so long as they are not changing the levels of the existing ground.  This adds up to around 50 services Jemena have agreed to lower at their cost. Thanks for all your inputs to help achieve this outcome.

    Martin Wragge-Morley
    Construction Superintendent
    Goulburn Mulwaree Council