Water restoration delayed after work-site injuries forced pause of main break fix

Work was paused at the site of a water main break after two people were injured. (Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit)
Work was paused at the site of a water main break after two people were injured. (Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit)

Fully restoring Calgary's water service will take longer than expected, but exactly how long is still undetermined.

Work to fix a feeder main break that triggered citywide water restrictions last week can now resume after two workers were injured at the site.

At around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, a contractor was welding to install the metal collar on the new section on the pipe. While doing that, a chain broke and caused injuries.

Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) was called in. The provincial agency determines when work can resume.

"Keeping our employees safe is a core value of the city," said Christopher Collier, the City of Calgary's occupational health and safety director.

"There are safety protocols for returning the site to operations and this has been underway since the clearance was provided by OHS Alberta."

The site was green lit for welding activities at around 10:45 a.m. Thursday. That work is expected to resume in the afternoon.

The Bearspaw south water main, which is 11 kilometres long and as wide as two metres in parts, suffered a break on June 5 that temporarily left hundreds of homes and businesses in the city's northwest without water.

The Bearspaw south water main, which is 11 kilometres long and as wide as two metres in parts, suffered a break that left hundreds of homes and businesses in the city's northwest without water.
The Bearspaw south water main, which is 11 kilometres long and as wide as two metres in parts, suffered a break that left hundreds of homes and businesses in the city's northwest without water.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said work to repair a critical water main break was halted after two workers were injured Wednesday night. (City of Calgary)

Conservation remains critical

In an update on Wednesday — a week after the main failed — officials told Calgarians they can expect water restrictions to continue into the middle of next week.

Gondek said water consumption has crept up again, this time by nine million litres, taking the city far above the safe threshold.

"I now must ask you to do more on your water conservation to support those that are working to restore our safe water supply," Gondek said Thursday.

Water supply is also lower than it has been over the past few days.

"This morning, we were at a place where we don't have enough of a cushion for emergencies," Gondek said. She said emergencies include things like water used in hospitals and for firefighting.

The City of Calgary said the first cuts to the damaged pipe were made over the weekend.
The City of Calgary said the first cuts to the damaged pipe were made over the weekend.

The Bearspaw south water main, which is 11 kilometres long and as wide as two metres in parts, suffered a break that left hundreds of homes and businesses in the city's northwest without water.. (City of Calgary)

On Wednesday night, firefighters battled a two-alarm fire in the southwest neighbourhood of Woodbine.

Sue Henry, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), said crews used around 100,000 litres to put out the blaze.

In comparison, she said, a fire of that size would typically require between 600,000 and 1.5 million litres of water.

"This is a great reminder for us to ensure our first responders have the water that they need to respond to public health and safety situations while we are all making this effort to conserve water," Henry said.

Mandatory Stage 4 water restrictions that were implemented when the feeder main broke last Wednesday are still in place and the city is still under a fire ban that extends to propane and gas fires.

To date, there have been 1,250 bylaw calls for water misuse and 90 calls for fire ban violations. In response, 376 written warnings were issued. As well, two tickets were handed out for water violations — both to private construction contractors.One ticket was issued related to the fire ban.

Making progress on repairs

Before the work stoppage on Wednesday night, progress had been made on fixing the broken infrastructure. A new section for the feeder main pipe was lowered into place at the site near Home Road and 16th Avenue N.W. in Montgomery.

The removed pipe was transported to another location for failure analysis. The city said it is looking at the information collected and will use that for plans going forward.

An inspection of the rest of the feeder main pipe is ongoing. More than four kilometres, or 80 per cent, is complete, according to Francois Bouchart, the director of capital priorities and investment with the city's infrastructure services department.

But it will still be a while before the city figures out exactly what led to the pipe breaking.

"I want to stress that it will take us time to determine the exact cause. We have a team of engineers analyzing and interpreting the data," Bouchart said.

"Our focus remains on the repair crew safety and our path to restoring water."