Aging pipes blamed for Montreal flooding
Downtown washout cancels classes, causes headaches
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.
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.