Ag­ing pipes blamed for Mon­treal flood­ing

Down­town washout can­cels classes, causes headaches

Ottawa Citizen - - CANADA -

MON­TREAL • A cen­tury-old pipe in dire need of re­pair is be­ing blamed for a big down­town flood that par­a­lyzed Mon­treal’s core Mon­day, can­celling univer­sity classes and caus­ing rush-hour headaches.

City of­fi­cials said they didn’t know what caused the rup­ture of the 88-year-old pipe.

Of­fi­cials spec­u­lated that it may have been be­cause of wildly-fluc­tu­at­ing tem­per­a­tures, nat­u­ral wear and tear on the pipe or vi­bra­tions from the cars and trucks that use the roads near the reser­voir.

Hu­man er­ror is un­likely be­cause work­ers were not near the site of the break, city of­fi­cials said.

Although city work­ers man­aged to shut off most of the water from the 48-inch pipe, water con­tin­ued to flood parts of the McGill cam­pus on Tues­day be­cause work­ers could not com­pletely tighten a valve on an­other ma­jor water main, a 54-inch pipe.

“Our ma­jor con­cern to­day is to stop the leaks and al­low McGill to use its fa­cil­i­ties so the stu­dents can go back to class,” city spokesper­son Philippe Sabourin said Tues­day.

The flood­ing dam­aged at least 12 build­ings on the McGill Cam­pus, forc­ing the univer­sity to can­cel 80 classes and re­lo­cate lab­o­ra­to­ries and class­rooms af­ter water poured down the cam­pus.

The 88-year-old con­duit trans­ports water from the Mc­Tavish Reser­voir to the Vin­cent d’Indy Reser­voir, fur­ther north near the Univer­sité de Mon­tréal.

It was one of sev­eral water mains that were sched­uled to be re­placed dur­ing the sec­ond phase of the re­pairs, which be­gan in De­cem­ber and were ex­pected to be com­pleted in March.

But ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture is not just a prob­lem for ma­jor cen­tres like Mon­treal.

It’s a prob­lem many cities have to deal with, ac­cord­ing to Karen Lei­bovici, pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“The in­fra­struc­ture in this coun­try is at a point where it needs sig­nif­i­cant re­pair and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and in many ar­eas of the coun­try, we need new in­fra­struc­ture as well,” Lei­bovici said in an in­ter­view.

A study done for the fed­er­a­tion five years ago in­di­cated there was “an in­fra­struc­ture deficit” of $170 bil­lion.

And Lei­bovici said a more re­cent study in­volv­ing civil engi­neers, pub­lic works pro­fes­sion­als and con­struc­tion firms found roads, water, sewer and drainage sys­tems were still at risk.

“What we’re look­ing at right now is that there’s a sig­nif­i­cant in­fra­struc­ture gap that still ex­ists,” Lei­bovici said.

But a long-term so­lu­tion ap­pears to be in the works.

The fed­er­a­tion has been work­ing with the fed­eral government over the last two years to de­velop a plan deal­ing with in­fra­struc­ture needs across the coun­try.

GRA­HAM HUGHES/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Water flows into a man­hole on a street in Mon­treal on Tues­day fol­low­ing a water main break. The flood­ing par­a­lyzed the city’s down­town core Mon­day.

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