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Non-essential water use ban lifted in Edmonton, surrounding areas

Click to play video: 'Non-essential water use ban lifted in Edmonton, surrounding areas'
Non-essential water use ban lifted in Edmonton, surrounding areas
WATCH ABOVE: A mandatory non-essential water use ban that's been in place for Edmonton and surrounding communities since Monday has been lifted. Jasmine King has the details – Feb 2, 2024

A mandatory non-essential water use ban that’s been in place for Edmonton and surrounding communities since Monday has been lifted.

EPCOR made the announcement during a news conference Friday morning.

“We’ve completed repairs at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant and we’re operating at full capacity,” said Frank Mannarino, EPCOR water services senior vice-president.

“While we’re still restoring supplies in the reservoir system, we’re comfortable at this point that the system has stabilized enough that we can lift the water restrictions.”

The ban on non-essential water use has been in place since Monday afternoon for residents and businesses in the capital region. EPCOR officials originally anticipated the ban would remain in place until Sunday.

The ban was put in place following a pump equipment failure at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant in southwest Edmonton. The facility provides water to about 90 communities surrounding Edmonton, including Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Beaumont, Fort Saskatchewan and Morinville.

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

EPCOR’s water treatment plants director Vicki Campbell said at about 2:30 a.m. Monday, a small amount of water entered the vault containing high-voltage electrical cables at the plant. The cables feed two 4,000-horsepower pumps that supply water into the distribution system.

“This contact resulted in failure of major electrical components at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant,” Campbell explained Friday.

“It was quite significant.”

The cables and other electrical components needed to be replaced. Work began immediately to make plans and source parts for the repairs. By Thursday evening, the repairs were complete. Overnight, work was done to beef up the amount of water in the distribution system so the ban could be lifted Friday.

Campbell said it’s not known how the water got into the system. A full review of the incident will begin next week.

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“This is very rare,” Mannarino said. “We had a series of cascading events, failures if you will, that led to a very unusual situation.”

The southwest Edmonton water plant is one of two that provide water to the region. The Rossdale Water Treatment Plant remained operational, but EPCOR said it could not adequately supply the entire service area with normal water consumption, hence the need for the water ban.

Mannarino acknowledged the impact the ban had on residents and businesses, particularly car washes and laundromats which were asked to cease operations altogether.

“I would especially like to thank the owners and the workers at car washes and laundromats who have been hit the hardest,” he said.

For the most part, businesses were compliant. However, Mannarino said there were “less than a handful” of businesses that did not comply with the ban, and a bylaw was used to limit water supply to those businesses.

“We got really good cooperation from the business community from this,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Residents in surrounding Edmonton communities concerned about water shortage'
Residents in surrounding Edmonton communities concerned about water shortage

Mannarino said the conservation efforts from resident and businesses saved more than 109 million litres of water this week, or about 10 per cent of regular consumption. While that may not sound like a huge reduction, EPCOR said the efforts were meaningful.

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“That small reduction did allow us some flexibility in the system to move water where we needed to, to allow us to prepare for things like the shutdown,” said Jamie Gingrich, senior manager of water treatment plant operations at EPCOR.

Campbell said about 30 people were working around the clock on the repairs, with another 50 people supporting those efforts.

No one was injured and EPCOR is grateful the repair process was done safely. Mannarino said the entire situation “could have been worse.”

The repair costs from this incident are “relatively low,” according to Mannarino.

EPCOR officials encouraged people to go out and support the businesses that have been most impacted by the ban, like car washes and laundromats.

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