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Ban on non-essential water use in Edmonton region expected to last until Sunday, Epcor says

Epcor's ban on non-essential water use continued Tuesday as repair work continued at its E.L. Smith water treatment plant in southwest Edmonton. (Tim Graham/CBC - image credit)
Epcor's ban on non-essential water use continued Tuesday as repair work continued at its E.L. Smith water treatment plant in southwest Edmonton. (Tim Graham/CBC - image credit)

The ban on non-essential water use in the Edmonton region is expected to continue until Sunday, Epcor said Tuesday afternoon.

Epcor said it has determined the likely cause of the failure and is replacing major electric cables to the large, 4,000-horsepower water distribution pumps that feed the reservoir system at the E.L. Smith water treatment plant in southwest Edmonton.

The utility expects the repair work will be finished by the end of the weekend.

Craig Bonneville, Epcor's director of engineering and technical services, said they'll be doing a thorough analysis of what went wrong.

"We're still investigating all the root causes of the failure," Bonneville told news media in an update Tuesday.

"The E.L. Smith water treatment plant is approximately 50-years-old, so we do invest in that facility continuously to ensure that it is reliable."

Once the repairs are finished, the plant will still need replenish the reservoir system before water restrictions can be lifted, Epcor said.

Of the four pumps in the system, two have now been temporarily restored and are operating but the largest two pumps still need repairs.

Epcor called for a mandatory ban on non-essential water use Monday after finding the electrical failure.

A day later, Epcor says it's seen a noticeable reduction in consumption from 370 to 340 million litres a day.

"Epcor would like to thank everyone in the region who has reduced their usage and supported these efforts," the utility said in a news release Tuesday.

The ban applies to Edmonton and surrounding communities including Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Morinville, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Beaumont, Fort Saskatchewan and others. In total, more than 90 communities in the capital region use water supplied by Epcor.

The Rossdale water treatment plant remains in operation.

Drinking water quality isn't affected, Epcor said.

The utility said it contacted more than 300 businesses with high water usage and non-essential operations on Monday.

Water conservation

The City of Edmonton said it's adjusted its water use at its facilities and operations.

Ryan Birch, director of bus operations, said they've stopped washing exteriors of buses and trains, if it's not essential.

"We will continue to make every effort to clean the exterior lights, as well as front doors, driver's side windows, and windshields for safety purposes," Birch said in an email Tuesday.

There are also limits on exterior washing of other vehicles in the city fleet, including garbage trucks, the city added.

Several municipalities are letting residents and businesses know what they should do.

Strathcona County has a red banner at the top of its website, reading: "Water ban in effect."

It advises residents to limit water use to essential purposes only.

St. Albert has stopped outdoor rink flooding, hydrant flushing, firefighter training, pool filling and washing city fleet vehicles, the city website says.

Epcor has implemented a mandatory ban on non-essential water use after electrical issues caused pump failures at one of its two water treatment plants in Edmonton.
Epcor has implemented a mandatory ban on non-essential water use after electrical issues caused pump failures at one of its two water treatment plants in Edmonton.

Epcor has implemented a mandatory ban on non-essential water use after electrical issues caused pump failures at one of its two water treatment plants in Edmonton. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The city has also paused street cleaning and bridge washing, as well as tree and plant watering and said it's taking measures to reduce water consumption where possible at recreation facilities.

Residents are asked to continue conserving water by taking short showers instead of baths and postponing laundry and non-essential cleaning.

Businesses such as laundromats and car washes are asked to stop using large volumes of non-essential water.

Wanda Short, owner of Grosvenor Coin Laundry in St. Albert, stopped operations Monday and said she hopes the ban won't last long.
Wanda Short, owner of Grosvenor Coin Laundry in St. Albert, stopped operations Monday and said she hopes the ban won't last long.

Wanda Short, owner of Grosvenor Coin Laundry in St. Albert, stopped operations Monday and said she hopes the ban won't last long. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Wanda Short, owner and operator of the Grosvenor Coin Laundry in St. Albert, was taking the news in stride.

"It's out of our control, like it's electrical, issues come up and you just kind of have to go with it," she told CBC News Tuesday.

She said she stopped the laundromat's industrial use during the restriction. Short gets between 50 to 75 customers a day, so she said she hopes the ban is short-lived.

"Because this is my only means of income and being a single parent, this is it. So I just keep my fingers crossed."

Bonneville said the majority of businesses have been following the ban but they have received reports of businesses that continue to use water for non-essential purposes.

He said they have tools to enforce the ban if necessary.

"We prefer not to use them," he said. "We will begin enforcing the ban by advising these businesses to comply or risk having their water turned off."