Calgary water emergency: review planned as replacement pipe arrives from U.S.

Click to play video: 'Third-party review of Calgary water feeder main break ordered'
Third-party review of Calgary water feeder main break ordered
WATCH: Calgary city councillors grilled city administration Tuesday over the response to the water line break, following revelations there will be a third-party review. Adam MacVicar reports. – Jun 18, 2024

Repair work continues Tuesday on Calgary’s water infrastructure as the city enters Day 13 of its water supply crisis. As those efforts continue, city officials revealed more about what kind of review will be undertaken to determine what caused a catastrophic water main break on June 5.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek delivered an update on the overall situation on Tuesday morning and was joined by David Duckworth, the city’s chief administrative officer.

Officials have said it has yet to be determined what caused the feeder main break this month, and Gondek said like most Calgarians, she is eager to learn about what exactly happened and is calling for a third-party review of the incident.

“The framework for the full third-party review has already been established,” Duckworth said. “The scope of this review will include, but not be limited to, understanding the factors that contributed to the original pipe failure, understanding of our current practices for inspection and asset sustainability, and it will include recommendations for specific actions to improve water supply resilience moving forward.

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“The review will be guided by an expert panel from academia, the water industry, water utilities management, engineering and government entities focused on infrastructure and resilience. The selection of the external consultant and panel members is currently being informed through conversations with the private sector and national water industry associations.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary official explains details of hotspots along broken water main pipe'
Calgary official explains details of hotspots along broken water main pipe

Duckworth said once an external consultant has been selected to lead the review and a panel has been put together, they will confirm what will make up “the full scope of the review.”

“The expert panel will ultimately provide recommendations based on the findings of this work that we can then action and share with Calgarians,” he said.

“I will personally commit to providing more information as it becomes available.”

On Saturday, Gondek announced that the situation had prompted the city to declare a state of local emergency.

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“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation,” she said at the time.

Click to play video: 'Calgary water emergency: Replacement pipe to arrive Tuesday'
Calgary water emergency: Replacement pipe to arrive Tuesday

The feeder main damaged on June 5 is crucial for moving water around the city. Because of the water supply crisis, residents of Calgary and several nearby municipalities were issued a ban on outdoor water use, which remains in effect. They have also been asked to conserve water indoors.

On Friday, officials announced that in addition to the damage originally found on the feeder main, five more “hot spots” had been discovered that required repair.

“As I advised yesterday, the site of the main feeder main has been repaired,” Gondek said on Tuesday. “Of the five areas of concern that still remain, the City of Calgary already has parts for three of those areas to be repaired. And yesterday we saw that the San Diego County Water Authority had shipped two more pieces that we require.”

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Click to play video: 'Calgary Stampede will continue amid water emergency: ‘The show will go on’'
Calgary Stampede will continue amid water emergency: ‘The show will go on’

In an update Tuesday afternoon, Gondek was joined by Calgary Emergency Management Agency Deputy Chief Coby Duerr and Michael Thompson, general manager of infrastructure services.

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Thompson said the two sections of pipe being trucked from California were expected to arrive in Calgary later Tuesday. He said once they’re received, they’ll need to be prepared — sandblasted and epoxied — before being installed.

The three- to five-week timeline for the resumption of regular water service remains, Thompson said, but promised an update on the construction schedule by the end of the week. Gondek added that crews are working around the clock and said the city is “doing everything we can to shorten the timeline for the repair.”

Thompson acknowledged the impact the construction is having on motorists and businesses, thanking them for their patience and co-operation.

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Work is being done at two new construction sites separate to the one at the initial feeder main. Excavations are expected to be completed Tuesday and then pipe at two of the hot spot sections will be removed.

“These hot spots are not leaks,” Duckworth explained. “They are identified structural deficiencies that require immediate repair.

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“There are no indications of leaks at this point, but that may change as we uncover and assess the pipe at each of these five hot-spot locations.”

Gondek noted that crews were simultaneously working on all five “hot spots” to try to complete repairs as quickly as possible.

Officials have warned that taps could run dry if water demand exceeds supply. Officials also note that the city needs to have enough water for fire emergencies and other potentially life-saving needs.

Click to play video: 'Calgary mayor says primary water main break ‘fully repaired,’ focus now on remaining 5 hotspots'
Calgary mayor says primary water main break ‘fully repaired,’ focus now on remaining 5 hotspots

Tickets and enforcement

Duerr reminded Calgarians not to take water from the river. He suggested collecting rain in barrels Tuesday ahead of the hot weekend.

There have been more than 2,000 complaints regarding people and businesses not adhering to the Stage 4 water restrictions, Duerr said.

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Two violation tickets have been issued so far, he said, to contracting companies.

However, until now, bylaw officers have been focusing on education. Officers have been using their discretion, and “only ticketing those who are repeat or egregious offenders,” Duerr said.

Including water use and fire ban calls, there have been 6,918 calls regarding the water emergency and infractions. There have been 560 written warnings and 709 verbal warnings, Duerr explained.

Now, he said, after so much time and news coverage, it would be hard to believe people are unaware of the water emergency.

“Moving forward, unless there are mitigating circumstances, … the direction to our peace officers … is ticketing,” Duerr said, adding that it’s $3,000 for an offence under water utility bylaw.

He also provided an update on the two workers who were injured while working on the feeder main, saying one had returned on modified work duties and the other was still in hospital.

Click to play video: 'Calgary water main break: Framework for third-party review into original failure already established'
Calgary water main break: Framework for third-party review into original failure already established

Update on water conservation efforts

Gondek said Tuesday that Calgarians used about 450 million litres of water on Monday, which she said was below the threshold for usage and “well within the range of water required for storage on a regular basis.”

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She and Duckworth thanked Calgary’s citizens and business owners for adhering to restrictions and listening to pleas to conserve water as the crisis continues.

Gondek reminded Calgarians that the situation is not over once all repairs have been made.

“Once this feeder main or transmission pipe is fixed and flushed, it will be tested for safety to make sure that the quality of water is safe for consumption,” she noted. “And that’s when we’ll be able to get everything back to full flow again.”

Mayor Jyoti Gondek provides an update on a Calgary feeder main break on June 18, 2024. CREDIT: City of Calgary (screenshot from a livestream on YouTube)

During a meeting Tuesday morning, city councillors decided to postpone a permanent outdoor watering schedule for Calgarians in light of the current water emergency and restrictions.

City council was eyeing new rules to limit outdoor watering to two days per week starting this summer.

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The changes won’t happen this year, but recommendations will come back to council before the first quarter of 2025.

Click to play video: 'Calgarians told to not collect water from rivers amid conservation efforts'
Calgarians told to not collect water from rivers amid conservation efforts

Councillors unanimously voted to defer the proposed bylaw amendments and to incorporate lessons from this water emergency into the recommendations for Calgary’s water efficiency plan and citywide outdoor watering schedule.

“Right now is not a time to be bringing water reports in a broader crisis where things can confuse people,” Coun. Sonya Sharp said. “We want people to do their best to bring the user rate down and we want people to make sure they’re utilizing rain buckets.”

The proposed changes to make water rules more permanent will come back to council in January, she said.

“If, at that time, there needs to be any changes to those reports based on what was going to come or what needs to come, that’ll be discussed then. But no need to muddy the water, no pun intended, right now with water reports in a water crisis,” Sharp said.

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Click to play video: '‘Every drop counts’: Calgary launches water conservation plan'
‘Every drop counts’: Calgary launches water conservation plan

For the latest updates from the City of Calgary, you can follow the city’s social media channels or click on its website here.

For the latest Alberta Emergency Alerts, you can click on the province’s website here.

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