55 breaks in 2018

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - FRONT PAGE - ALAN S. HALE

It’s only the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber, but there have al­ready been 55 wa­ter main breaks so far in 2018.

With more in­evitably on their way as win­ter con­tin­ues, Corn­wall is find­ing it­self well above av­er­age com­pared to past years when it comes to breaks.

“On av­er­age we have about 52 breaks per year. So we are al­ready above that av­er­age and we are likely to fin­ish off the year around 60 beaks,” said John St. Mar­seille, gen­eral man­ager of in­fra­struc­ture. “This num­ber is high and apart from the cost of re­pair­ing the wa­ter main breaks them­selves, there are soft costs as­so­ci­ated with that, such as wa­ter lost to res­i­dents.”

Fix­ing these breaks is not in­ex­pen­sive, with the cost of re­pair­ing a break be­ing be­tween three­times and 10-times higher than the ex­pense of do­ing pipe re­lin­ing to pre­vent such breaks. At the mo­ment, there are 67 kilo­me­tres of wa­ter mains that re­quire re­lin­ing, re­pairs or re­plac­ing and the bud­get only ex­pects to do two kilo­me­tres of that work in 2019. This back­log has been caused by “un­der­spend­ing” from the city, said St. Mar­seille, and fix­ing it will take time even if coun­cil were to throw money at the prob­lem now.

“So we are not mak­ing much of a dent in that,” said St. Mar­seille. “There’s a lot of need out there, and we un­der­stand that. But even if we wrote a $38-mil­lion cheque to­day, we wouldn’t be able to do all that work.”

St. Mar­seille’s com­ment speaks to the lo­gis­tics, be­ing that even if there were a bot­tom­less pot of money, there’s only so much con­struc­tion work that can be rea­son­ably ac­com­mo­dated in a sin­gle sea­son.

That there are ex­pected to be so many breaks this year raised eye­brows at a spe­cial meet­ing of coun­cil held Thurs­day where the ad­min­is­tra­tion pre­sented the draft wa­ter and waste­water bud­get for 2019. Coun. Dean Hollingsworth won­dered if this was a grow­ing trend that could be­come a se­ri­ous prob­lem in the years to come.

St. Mar­seille and his staff mem­bers re­sponded that it might be driven in part by cli­mate change, ex­plain­ing not only are parts of the wa­ter sys­tem age­ing and al­ready prone to cor­ro­sion, but that this is ex­ac­er­bated by deeper than nor­mal frost pen­e­tra­tion dur­ing the win­ter or dryer than nor­mal sum­mers.

“in very dry sum­mers that we had this year, the soil can des­ic­cate, which causes it to move away from the pipes which al­low for mov­ing and shak­ing,” ex­plained bill de witt, mu­nic­i­pal works divi­sion man­ager.

an­other cli­mate change re­lated chal­lenge for the wa­ter sys­tem is taste and odour is­sues, which can be caused by blue-green al­gae blooms which are be­com­ing more com­mon. these prob­lems are not dan­ger­ous to hu­man health, but are none­the­less a chal­lenge and a nui­sance for the city. [email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/Alan_S_Hale

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