Forensic Engineering


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The City of Fresno filed a lawsuit against Shell Oil Company. The basis of the lawsuit was that Shell Oil Company was responsible for failed water laterals in the City of Fresno. The City claimed that the polybutylene (PB) resin pellets (manufactured by Shell Oil Company) used in the formation of water laterals were the cause for water lateral failures.

Shell Oil Company hired Cannon to investigate and determine the cause for the failing water lines and later provide expert testimony for the defense team. The investigation included review of the AWWA, ASTM, and City of Fresno standards for installation of water laterals, as well as research into the mechanical, chemical, and soil composition. The research also included review of the City of Fresno tract maps, improvement plans, GIS data, pressure system analysis, and site specific conditions. To obtain hard evidence relating to the failure, Cannon set up a series of excavations exposing both failed and non-leaking water laterals. The Cannon survey team documented every layer and characteristic of material while geologists took soil samples and compaction tests at critical intervals throughout each dig. In addition, the excavation was photo and video documented for reference purposes. As a result of the investigation and evidence obtained, the defense team proved that the lines failed as a result of improper installation: kinks in the water lateral, backfill of rocks and/or sharp objects, incorrect bending radii, and failed surface conditions.

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Fresno, California

Forensic Engineering