Pump Failure Caused I-70 Flooding, CDOT Says

By Eric Heinz

After a torrential downpour in August left motorists stranded in floodwater, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) identified the cause of the incident as a failure of its pump system. “On Sunday, Aug. 7, north Denver experienced a flash flooding event.

During this event, an error in the drainage pump system for the project prevented the pumps from turning on automatically,” CDOT stated in an email to The G.E.S. Gazette. “After the pumps turned on, the area was drained in a short period of time, indicating that the pumps, once manually started, were working as intended, and the error was corrected.”

Kiewit Infrastructure Co., the contractor for the pump system, said it was grateful to the Denver Fire Department for its response and that no injuries were reported from people traveling in vehicles affected by the flooding. On Aug. 16, CDOT stated recent rainfall in the area gave the project team the ability to collect data and evaluate the pump system.

“Both the main pump and the smaller pumps came on automatically and ran as intended, effectively managing approximately three hours of steady rain,” CDOT stated. “Kiewit will continue to monitor the system 24 hours per day and analyze the data to ensure the system’s continued reliability.”

The Central 70 pump station. Photo courtesy of CDOT

Kiewit stated it brought on additional staff to assist in helping identify the root cause, analyze data, and test the system technologies. “We are also looking to enhance the alarm system to ensure staff is notified immediately when the pump does not turn on automatically during a storm event,” the company stated. “In the meantime, the pump station is being monitored by project staff 24 hours a day.”

Kiewit said it will monitor weather and roadway conditions via remote tracking and assistance from the Colorado Transportation Management Center, and it will have on-site staffing located at the pump station during any weather events that include precipitation.

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