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City infrastructure improving to deal with water main breaks in Lethbridge

Click to play video: 'How variable weather impacts City of Lethbridge infrastructure' How variable weather impacts City of Lethbridge infrastructure
WATCH ABOVE: According to city officials, there have already been four water main breaks this January in Lethbridge, stemming from winter weather conditions. Eloise Therien finds out more on how these incidents happen, and how the city plans to upgrade its infrastructure going forward. – Jan 21, 2022

Several water main breaks have occurred in Lethbridge in a short period of time, raising questions about the durability of the city’s pipeline infrastructure.

According to Jeff Koshuta, the city’s water and wastewater operations manager, this year isn’t much different from others.

“In this month of January, we’ve had four already,” he said. “The 10-year average in the month of January is five breaks.

“It looks like we are on target to experience 34, 35 breaks, which is close to our 10-year average.”

Read more: Quick overnight thaw leads to water main breaks in a dozen Calgary communities Thursday

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Recent thawing and freezing cycles in the region have contributed to the issues, which included the opening of a sinkhole on 6 Avenue S. last week. That caused damage to passenger vehicles.

Most water main breaks occur between October and March.

“With the fluctuations in weather, the frost will get driven into the ground,” Koshuta explained. “We have found that the lower the frost is in the ground, or the lower the depth, we will run into problems with pipes unexpectedly breaking.”

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge saw 20 water main breaks in February' Lethbridge saw 20 water main breaks in February
Lethbridge saw 20 water main breaks in February – Mar 5, 2019

Work is underway to replace older pipes with newer, more durable ones. As part of its improvement plan, each year the city said it spends roughly $1.8 million to $2 million on upgrades to PVC, a material known for its corrosion and chemical resistance.

“A lot of the cast iron was installed in the 40s, 50s and 60s,” Koshuta explained. “In the 70s, that’s when pipes switched over to different materials.”

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Koshuta said these upgrades should see the number of breaks continue to decline year over year.

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