Freezing temperatures add pressure to Lethbridge infrastructure
As February continues to see constant temperatures well below zero, damage to city infrastructure has turned from a possibility into a reality.
“Nothing really works well after -20, that’s equipment, vehicles, even staff,” Adam Campbell, Water & Wastewater operations manager with the City of Lethbridge said.
“Right now, we have an ongoing situation on 5th Avenue north where we’re trying to contain a water-main break, which we’ve been working on for about four days now.”
The break is believed by officials to be caused by age but expedited by the cold. Although an official cause is yet to be determined, the break has caused not only more work for crews in the plummeting temperatures, but a costly expense also.
“I would estimate roughly $10,000,” Campbell said.
“That’s the cost to set up traffic barricades, dig a hole, replace the valve itself, back-fill and put some hot mix on it, as long as it is a valve. If it’s something else, the cost may go slightly up.”
Although Campbell said repairs like these don’t necessarily break the budget, they do take resources away from other winter projects such as checking fire hydrants aren’t frozen throughout the city.
“There’s other work that we’re not getting done,” Campbell said.
“So it’s taking capacity from our hydrant operation program and putting it into this, which is OK since this is higher priority, but it’s still limiting our resources.”
Campbell also said the City sees a smaller staff working throughout the winter, making it even harder to quickly execute repairs.
Over the last few weeks, staff said the City has also received up to 40 service calls from residents and is dealing with two blocked sewers and a broken water pipe.
However, Campbell said this isn’t unusual for the winter months.
“Lethbridge is designed to handle the cold weather. It’s quite rough on our infrastructure and we don’t get as many years as somewhere like Phoenix might, but in general, it actually holds up pretty well.”
With freezing temperatures expected to stick around throughout most of February, the City is hoping the infrastructure will continue to hold up for the weeks to come.
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