Non-essential water ban likely to continue until Sunday in Edmonton area

Click to play video: 'Non-essential water ban likely to continue until Sunday in Edmonton region'
Non-essential water ban likely to continue until Sunday in Edmonton region
The non-essential water ban will likely continue for several more days after an equipment failure at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant prompted EPCOR and surrounding municipalities to order residents and businesses to conserve water. Lisa MacGregor has the latest – Jan 30, 2024

Residents and businesses in the Edmonton area are being told to continue limiting non-essential water use as EPCOR works to repair a failure at one of its two water treatment plants.

On Tuesday, EPCOR said the non-essential water ban remained in place and that it was expected to continue until mid-day Sunday, Feb. 4.

The pump equipment failure at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant in southwest Edmonton was noticed at 2 a.m. Monday.

Later that day, the Edmonton region that receives water from EPCOR was put under a mandatory non-essential water ban. EPCOR said customers may also experience low water pressure. There is no impact to the quality of the drinking water, it added.

Click to play video: 'Water ban shuts down businesses across Edmonton for days'
Water ban shuts down businesses across Edmonton for days

Businesses that use large volumes of non-essential water – such as laundromats, rinks and car washes – were also asked to stop. Those businesses will have to remain closed until the ban is lifted, said Craig Bonneville, director of engineering and technical services with EPCOR.

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He said the majority of businesses have complied with the ban.

EPCOR has been receiving reports about businesses not obeying the water ban, Bonneville said. He explained EPCOR has reached out to individual businesses and will begin enforcing it if they don’t comply.

“We do appreciate the impact this has on the businesses,” he said. But, under an Edmonton bylaw, “we absolutely have the authority to shut down water services in order to maintain the stability of the system.

“We do have tools within the bylaw to do that. We’d prefer not to use them. If we do have to go to the extent of shutting down the water, we will. But we’re actively reaching out to customers who aren’t compliant.”

Bonneville said EPCOR is in regular contact with the city and province but at this time, doesn’t need other agencies to invoke emergency orders in order to get the message across.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton treatment plant failure triggers non-essential water use ban across region'
Edmonton treatment plant failure triggers non-essential water use ban across region

EPCOR said Tuesday it had determined the “likely cause of the distribution pumping equipment system failure” and anticipates repairs will be done and supply stabilized by Sunday.

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“Once the repairs have been completed, EPCOR will require time to replenish the reservoir system before water restrictions can be lifted,” the company said in a news release Tuesday afternoon.

People are asked to delay laundry, hand-wash small amounts of dinner dishes, take short showers rather than baths, and hold off filling hot tubs, pools or flooding outdoor rinks.

“These demand management measures that we’ve called can have a significant positive benefit to give us more time to restore service, and in this case, hours do matter in our work to restore service,” Bonneville said.

Click to play video: 'Non-essential water ban enters second day in Edmonton region'
Non-essential water ban enters second day in Edmonton region

As a result of the ban announced Monday, there was a noticeable reduction in water consumption that day, EPCOR said.

Water use went from 370-million litres per day to 340-million litres on Monday, Bonneville said.

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“We really feel like we’ve had a positive response,” he said. “It has helped us tremendously. At this time, we don’t anticipate requesting a further reduction… but we do need people to maintain current reductions.”

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he’s confident in EPCOR’s response.

“I know that EPCOR is working very, very diligently and as quickly as possible to find the right parts and the equipment that is necessary to replace the broken part. And I urge Edmontonians to continue to please exercise and reduce their consumption of discretionary use of water,” the mayor said.

“EPCOR warned and provided the right info as effectively and quickly as possible and they’re taking all the necessary actions.”

All City of Edmonton recreation centres, leisure centres and arenas remain open, but have water-saving measures in place for public washrooms and shower facilities.

Click to play video: 'Water, power consumption concerns during Alberta heat wave'
Water, power consumption concerns during Alberta heat wave

EPCOR has begun repairs at the E.L Smith Water Treatment Plant, which Bonneville said is about 50 years old and has regular proactive and preventative maintenance. Work focuses on fixing the electrical feed system to 4,000 horsepower water distribution pumps that feed the reservoir system.

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“This involves replacing major electric cables within the treatment plant electrical system,” EPCOR said. “Once completed, the pumps will be restarted.”

The E.L. Smith plant has four pumps, two of which have already been temporarily restored and were running on Tuesday.

The largest two pumps aren’t running because of the electrical issue. To complete the cable replacement work safely, additional shutdowns of the plant will be required.

“It’s a complex one that we’re facing,” Bonneville said. “We don’t ask our customers to do this very often.”

More than 300 businesses with high water usage and non-essential operations were contacted on Monday. EPCOR thanked those companies and their customers for either reducing or stopping water use.

Click to play video: 'EPCOR asks Capital Region residents to restrict non-essential water use through weekend'
EPCOR asks Capital Region residents to restrict non-essential water use through weekend

“This has got to be rough on the business. I don’t know if there’s recourse for them,” said Jed Soroka, who stopped by a car wash Tuesday to find it closed. “(We) went to the mountains. We got all kinds of chemicals from the highways and whatever else all over the car so it’s going to have come off sooner or later.”

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Arthur’s Car Wash in west Edmonton would normally see between 60 and 80 vehicles come through on a day like Tuesday, owner/operator Brandon Ekert said. But the car wash was closed.

“This is probably my first busy week since the cold snap two weeks ago. I’ve had a really busy week and so it sucked to be closed today,” he said.

The financial impact is huge, Ekert explained.

“That affects making the rent this month, paying my bills.

“It’s really stressful. December was rough. It’s Christmas, it’s slow, the details slow down, the average daily car washes slow down. Then to have a really nice warm week and to be closed until Sunday is tough. I’ve got employees to pay and bills.”

Click to play video: 'Water ban in place in Strathcona County'
Water ban in place in Strathcona County

Bubbles Car Wash is another business that has complied with the water ban.

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“We were notified of the ban yesterday afternoon and promptly halted exterior car wash services,” Bubbles spokesperson Natasha Toffoli said Tuesday. “While we continue to offer interior vehicle detailing services, exterior vehicle washing is temporarily unavailable. Bubbles and our team are hopeful this will be resolved quickly.”

Bubbles is not aware of any plans from EPCOR for compensation, Toffoli said.

“This is the first outage we’ve experienced and hopefully the last. This is a major disruption to our core business, our staff and of course, a disappointment to our clients.”

EPCOR cannot provide financial compensation due to the unforeseen nature of this failure, Bonneville said. However, he said some businesses might have business continuity coverage with their insurance policy.

The Oilers Entertainment Group said it’s eliminating non-essential water use in Rogers Place.

“Limited ice resurfacing at Rogers Place will continue only as needed, and thankfully the current non-essential water ban comes during a time where the Oilers are on a break and there are minimal spectator events,” said Stu Ballantyne, president and chief operating officer of Rogers Place and ICE District.

The water treatment plant provides water not just for the city of Edmonton, but several surrounding communities, including Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Beaumont, Fort Saskatchewan and Morinville.

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Strathcona County started its non-essential water management efforts at 2:30 p.m. on Monday. All truck fills in Beaver County will be out of operation until the ban is lifted, the county said.

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