Water woes: Contractor, DeKalb County dispute over main break

Now that repairs on this busted water main have wrapped up, a new rupture could be coming. This one between the county and the contractor hired to make repairs.

"I was thinking maybe we would get a medal or a plaque or something and not a nasty email telling me I was responsible for the repair," said Alessandro Salvo, CEO of GS Construction Inc.

Salvo said last Friday, DeKalb County called his company to cap the leak.

"We basically got thrust to the forefront of being in charge. We don’t have a contract with the county, I don’t have a purchase order to do what I did, but we recognized the potential consequences to the people of DeKalb," said Salvo.

Emails obtained by FOX 5 News show Salvo sent a message to Interim DeKalb Watershed Director Charles Lambert around 4 a.m. Sunday stating that the problem had been fixed.

The email stated: 

“At approximately 3am we located the shut off valve for the Hydrant. The hydrant was shut off and the problem is over. DeKalb County is back in business.”

About 14 hours later, Lambert responded with this email: 

“Mr. Salvo,

As part of our after action review I need to have the following concerns addressed:

- On day one your crew showed up with little equipment to do the job such as pumps, trench boxes, etc. which hampered the speed of the repair and safety of the staff
-  A repair method of making a fix on the fire hydrant was chosen and failed since equipment was not there to get down to the valve which would have resolved this day one
- Day 2 saw pumps that could not keep up with the water flow which required to be changed out to larger pumps along with an excavator and trench boxes to get to the depth of the line

As it stands now, if the correct equipment had been brought to the job the situation would have been resolved then. The repair method chosen failed so this failure and corrective action is on the contractor to resolve.”

It was response from the county that Salvo wasn’t expecting.

"I wasn’t supposed to bring any equipment, we were supposed to be in an advisory, technical capacity, and we went above and beyond that," said Salvo.

Salvo's email response to Lambert later that evening accuses the county being the ones who didn't bring the right equipment.

His response back read:

“Mr. Lambert,

I hope this is some kind of joke. You are responsible to compensate GS Construction fully for saving your bacon. 

On day one we were only supposed to advise County crews on the shutdown. Shon called us and told us that all equipment was on site. All we had to do was show up and advise. The inadequate equipment was on the part of the County. Pumps that didn’t work and equipment that was too small.  No shoring equipment or other necessary tools to make the fix. 

What repair method are you referring to? Nothing failed. You were not even there so how do you know something failed?

I have everything documented. The failure was on the part of the County for insisting on turning on the water before we could find the shut off valve.

We then mobilized the adequate men & equipment on a SATURDAY within hours. The problem could have been resolved by noon except someone insisted on bringing the line back up to pressure with no way to stop the leak. Causing an even bigger mess than was necessary. 

Day 2 was a smashing success. Extra pumps were brought in at the behest of Mr. Williams and were not even needed when the pressure was reduced. They sat on the side idle. 

I am baffled as to how you can make those statements. You will compensate us for every second we were on site, every penny we spent plus a premium for emergency response.  As it stands right now DeKalb County owes GS Construction Inc. HUGE. This feeble attempt to blame us for any part of the problem is the most dishonest thing I have ever heard. I will be contacting your superiors first thing Monday morning. I have never been so insulted in my life.  I have been saying since Friday night that I KNEW DeKalb County would try and blame me for the problem and not pay GS Construction.  Everyone on site swore they would not let that happen.  Every time I help DeKalb County the answer from the County is to punch us in the face. I assure you that will not happen.”

Salvo elaborated to FOX 5’s Trevor Shirley about the cost of the job.

“I’m assuming just out of my pocket, I’m guessing this weekend cost me $50,000-75,000," said Salvo.

FOX 5 News offered Charles Lambert a chance to talk about the county's position or concerns, but a county spokesman simply stated that "we are going to let the emails speak for themselves."

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