Contractor Finishes Mudslide Cleanup Work in California

Long Beach, California-based National Plant Services was one of the primary contractors assisting Montecito in the wake of the devastating January mudslide

Contractor Finishes Mudslide Cleanup Work in California

National Plant Services worked in Montecito, California, from Jan. 17 to Feb. 23, cleaning and inspecting the community's entire collections system following the Jan. 9 mudslide.

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National Plant Services recently wrapped up its time in Montecito, California, following the devastating mudslide that hit the community in early January.

Although it will take much more time for the area to completely recover, progress has been made since National Plant Services initially arrived on scene Jan. 17 to help with cleanup efforts. That day, National Plant Services crews arrived in Montecito to complete darkness.

Not just the dark of nighttime, but a desolate blackness that comes with a complete lack of civilization. The only illumination came from police and emergency crews, digging through the wreckage of what used to be a community.

“Just destruction,” says Jeff Garcia, National Plant Services business development manager, when he first spoke with Cleaner magazine in late January. “I guess where we initially came in, there had been a street full of homes — now it was just washed away. Looked like nothing had been there. The streets aren’t streets: just kind of a mud- or dirt-covered lane where a street used to be. Scary is not the right word, but you’re anxious being there. There’s no power, no utilities; everything is dark.”

Four crews from National Plant Services were involved in the cleanup efforts. They were tasked with completing a condition assessment for essentially the entire collections system; no small task when even finding manholes was a challenge. City workers accompanied the crews to locate access points, along with excavation trucks that had to scrape away at caked mud to expose manholes.

“Even getting to the city was a challenge,” Garcia says.

National Plant Services crews were working around the clock at first: 12- to 15-hour day and night shifts with the four crews rotating two at a time, some days inspecting up to 12,000 feet of pipe.

“Some lines were OK and hadn’t been affected, but others we would pop the manhole and it’s just to the top with mud,” Garcia says. “Some areas go fast, and some areas go slow where they’re packed with rocks that came into the line. We slowed down and did five-day weeks toward the end instead of seven-day weeks, and we were working 10 hours instead of 15.”

National Plant Services took a water truck in addition to its Vac-Con and camera trucks because water was cut off to much of the town early on.

“There were only certain fire hydrants that were working, so we made sure we weren’t chasing water all day,” Garcia says. 

Overall, National Plant Services spent a little over a month in Montecito and inspected around 100,000 feet of pipe, even inspecting some sections of the system twice.

“Some of the stuff they just wanted to burn through to make sure it was OK, and then they had us come back,” Garcia says.

National Plant Services also engaged in some rehabilitation efforts, including capping laterals to houses that had been swept away or red-flagged as unsalvageable, as well as replacing some manholes that had been destroyed or completely blocked with debris.

“It could have been a lot worse, actually,” Garcia says of the collections system. “I was surprised that most of the lines were in decent condition. I’d say we found about half a dozen broken pipes that you could tell were a direct result of the mudslide.”


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