It’s not everyday you witness an excavator being suspended in the air. Let alone two.
The rare sight was why about a dozen Cheswick residents gathered to watch and document not one, but two, excavators being lifted out of a quagmire at a Cheswick construction site Thursday afternoon.
The recovery of the 30-ton and 60-ton excavators had been two months in the making. McCutcheon Enterprises, Inc. of Allegheny Township was on site with a colossal crane that arrived by barge along the Allegheny River shoreline. There also was equipment to clean the site.
“This is a once in a lifetime deal,” said property owner Bill Bunting.
While he wasn’t excited about two excavators being submerged in his land, he knew eventually they would be removed.
George Davison, who lives up the street, started periodically checking out what was happening at 9 a.m. Seeing a huge excavator being hooked and carried out by an more massive crane was an unbelievable sight to him.
“I find it hard to believe there’s equipment to do something like that,” he said.
Tim McCutcheon, who also lives in the neighborhood, has been keeping tabs on the excavators since they got stuck. He watched the barge carrying the recovery crane arriving Wednesday night and docking along the shoreline near his home. He was able to see the first removal, the smaller excavator.
“I must have missed the second one being removed. I took a nap after the first one because it was so long,” he said.
McCutcheon said after the first excavator was lifted out, it was hosed down before being carried away. The second one, which was larger, was carried away without a wash.
Photos circulated on social media in February of the two excavators submerged up to their cabs in mud along the Allegheny River bank. The two pieces of heavy machinery were being used below the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks by Watercrest Way, about 100 yards from Rachel Carson Park.
A week later, the Allegheny County Conservation District investigated the site.
Spokesperson Lauren Fraley said the state Department of Environmental Protection found a contractor for the Allegheny Valley Joint Sewage Authority was working at the site when its equipment became stuck in the river’s floodway.
Allegheny Valley Joint Sewage Authority treatment plant Manager Tim Kephart said he was not aware of the situation until someone texted him pictures of the submerged excavators.
“I didn’t know anyone was digging up there,” he said.
Kephart reached out to the plant’s engineer who confirmed the equipment belonged to Greenland Construction. Kephart said he recently hired the company for contract work. During a couple of free days, the company decided to clear trees in the area.
The company could not be reached for comment after hours Thursday.
Kephart said the authority plans to put in a new sewage trunk line from Springdale to its treatment plant in Harmar, and a new pump station will be built.
Bunting said the next steps after the removal are for the trees and debris to be removed. He said a ditch will be dug out to begin the process of laying down the pipe.