City of Saskatoon addresses infrastructure fears after Broadway Theatre flood

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City of Saskatoon addresses infrastructure fears after Broadway Theatre flood
WATCH ABOVE: A water main break flooded the Broadway Theatre basement and raised questions about recently installed infrastructure on Broadway Avenue – Mar 6, 2019

The repairs to a water main replaced less than three years ago during a massive construction blitz will likely have to be covered by the City of Saskatoon, not contractors.

During the 2016 construction season, crews replaced water mains installed in the early 1900s along Broadway Avenue. The work resulted in fewer patrons for many businesses on one of Saskatoon’s most iconic thoroughfares.

READ MORE: Saskatoon businesses on Broadway pledge to stay open during road work

The work represents a “horrible time” for the area that happened for a “great reason” – good new infrastructure, said Kirby Wirchenko, the executive and artistic director at the Broadway Theatre.

On Sunday morning, Broadway Theatre staff found a couple inches of water in the basement of the building. A crew eventually realized the problem was with the nearby water main.

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By mid-afternoon, workers had the area cleaned and drying, likely resulting in an insurance claim of $5,000 to $9,000, though it could balloon to $20,000 to $30,000 if more damage is found, Wirchenko said.

The theatre closed Monday and was still under a drinking water advisory Wednesday, which also impacted some bars and restaurants in the area.

One of Wirchenko’s greatest worries is the fact the break happened on a relatively new pipe.

“I think the concern that some people are having is ‘if we’re only two years in, what’s the recourse?’” Wirchenko said.

“People don’t put in infrastructure thinking it’s a 10-year job. They think it’s a 50- to 70-year job.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon water main breaks add to extreme cold misery

Russ Munro, the city’s director of water and waste, said water main breaks are possible regardless of the infrastructure’s age.

However, newer PVC water pipes in Saskatoon are more flexible and resilient, he said.

“A contractor will be responsible for the infrastructure that they install usually for a period of about two years,” Munro said, but that only pertains to faults in infrastructure.

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In Broadway’s case, Munro said he suspects the culprit is frost causing the ground to shift, which means the city would have to cover the cost.

He said it’s financially responsible for the city to take on the risk of paying for ground movement because if contractors had more liability, the costs for their services would be higher.

Differential ground movement is also more common in areas closer to the South Saskatchewan River, Munro said.

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