Calgary nears final stages of restoring full water use after main break

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said emergency crews are nearing the final stages of restoring full water use after a massive feeder main break that has impacted the city’s waterlines for almost one month.

During a press conference on Saturday, Gondek said crews have been taking preliminary samples during the pipe flushing process to send to Alberta Health Services for testing.

“This means we are approaching the final steps of restoring citywide water very soon,” she told reporters.

Click to play video: 'Calgary water emergency: City awaiting sample test results before stabilization process begins'

Calgary water emergency: City awaiting sample test results before stabilization process begins

“Preliminary testing is looking encouraging and the final stage of stabilizing involves slowly easing the feeder main back into regular use. This is great news for all of us.”

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A massive feeder main, a critical line that carries water from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant to about 60 per cent of the city, broke on June 5 in the Montgomery neighbourhood of northwest Calgary.

The city has been relying on water from the South Glenmore Treatment Plant, which is also supplying water to the other 40 per cent of the city.

Emergency crews have continually encouraged Calgarians to stop using water outdoors and minimize indoor water use by taking shorter showers, limiting loads of laundry and cutting back on flushing toilets.

Click to play video: 'Calgary mayor calling for more water conservation efforts as usage climbs'

Calgary mayor calling for more water conservation efforts as usage climbs

On Thursday, Gondek said Calgarians used 500 million litres of water, about 20 million litres more than the daily limit needed to ensure enough water is available for firefighting and health-care services.

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She said Calgarians needed to keep reducing their water use by 25 per cent to prevent reserves from running dry.

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During Saturday’s update, she said residents turned things around.

“You doubled down on your conservation efforts and yesterday’s numbers came in at 460 million litres,” Gondek said Saturday.

“I trusted that you would rise to the occasion because you have done such an amazing job over the last few weeks of cutting down your water usage.”

Francois Bouchard, Calgary’s infrastructure director, said crews have continued to make good progress toward restoring water service.

Teams have been following a four-step restoration process that includes filling, flushing, testing and stabilizing, he said.

“Yesterday, we completed filling the feeder main around 6 p.m. and last night, we began flushing the pipe,” Bouchard said Saturday. “This entails pushing water through the system and discharging into the river.”

As flushing is completed, he said preliminary samples will be taken to test water quality.

So far, the results have been encouraging, he said.

“If testing shows that the water is clean and safe, and we have confirmed this with Environment and Protected Areas as well as Alberta Health Services, we will move to the final step of stabilizing the system,” Bouchard said.

Click to play video: 'Calgary water emergency: pipeline flushing to begin, says mayor Gondek'

Calgary water emergency: pipeline flushing to begin, says mayor Gondek

Gondek said many people, including Premier Danielle Smith, are looking for answers about what caused the initial break and how to strengthen the city’s water system moving forward.

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Speaking on her province-wide radio show, Your Province. Your Premier, Smith said developers have told her that Calgary’s water leakage is “very high,” citing a report drafted in the spring.

“We have to address the issues of why Calgary’s water leakage rates in their pipe system (are) high and what can be done to fix that,” she said.

She also expressed concern about whether Calgary’s water infrastructure can handle the stress of additional apartment complexes as part of planned blanket rezoning.

“Just prior to the pipe bursting, we had a joint meeting of council and my Calgary caucus and I said, ‘Are you sure with blanket rezoning that all your old infrastructure is going to be able to withstand it?” Smith said.

“When you’ve got 12 single-family homes and an infrastructure built for that, that’s very different than having multi-family homes and multiple multi-family homes.”

Gondek said the report Smith is referencing has been presented to city council, where it was debated “quite thoroughly.”

Thompson added the city actively works with industry on how it can reduce water leakage across the system.

“The City of Calgary’s water leakage is comparable to other municipalities around Calgary … but we know we need to decrease the amount of water leaking from our system,” he said.

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Click to play video: 'Calgary water emergency: repair enters critical phase'

Calgary water emergency: repair enters critical phase

Gondek confirmed that the framework of an independent third-party incident review will be presented to a city council committee meeting on Wednesday.

“This framework will include the engagement of an advisory group, which is comprised of respected leaders and industry experts,” Gondek said.

“The scope will cover what happened to the pipe, what happened with the city’s response and how Calgarians were kept up to speed during the repair and restoration work.”

Gondek also said the city’s Emergency Operations Centre has been tracking the cost of restoring water service. Transactions will be tallied up once water has been fully restored, she said.

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