By mark Squibb | June 10, 2021
When asked what could have caused a recent set of water main breaks, Conception Bay South Mayor Terry French said Tuesday he had just spent hours asking the same question.
A major watermain break occurred near Anchorage Road on Saturday, June 5, which affected the whole of the town west of that street for much of the day Saturday. Crews worked into the night to repair the line.
Then on Tuesday, June 8, the town experienced three breaks, one after another; one on Monument Road in Topsail, one on the Conception Bay Highway in Foxtrap, and one on Chaytor’s Place.
Though the Town seems to have pinpointed the cause of Saturday’s watermain break, as of Tuesday evening the investigation into the cause the three other breaks was still ongoing.
“It looks like sharp rocks on the outside of the pipe somehow ate their way through the pipe, causing the Saturday break,” said French.
He said the breaks along Monument Road and Chaytor’s Road were smaller, and not many residents were affected. The break in Foxtrap along the Conception Bay Highway however, was bigger.
Though the cause of the three breaks on Tuesday was not clear, French said that pressure had been eliminated as a suspect.
“We’re trying to determine what caused those three as we speak,” said French. “We know it wasn’t pressure. The pressure valves were checked throughout the repairs on Saturday … so, for some unknown reason, we had three breaks today. We don’t know what caused these three leaks. Was it something that went through the system on Saturday? A hammerhead, or air? We don’t know. When you have a system that’s 200 kilometers long, and something goes through the line, it finds the weakest points. So, they were the weakest points in the system, as we know it.”
Pressure, it seems, was the problem in a series of leaks that occurred in April and May of 2020.
“The last time we had this, it was a similar incident, we had three other, smaller punctures throughout our system, but we know that that was probably pressure related to some degree,” said French. “However, now we know, these three today were not pressure related.”
The problem in April and May last year was related to the pressure reducing values (PRVs) which help regulate water pressure.
French clarified that with that series of leaks, where pressure was the culprit, homes would not be damaged because each home has its own PRV, which would protect the home if there is fluctuation on the line.
He said the most recent series of breaks is a case of deja vu all over again.
“There seems to be something not right, and these are the questions I’ve been asking staff and that they’re inquiring about,” said French. “They’re telling me it’s not the same as it was last time, it’s totally different. But, yet again, there’s a major break followed by three smaller breaks.”
“To have a watermain break is not uncommon. It happens all the time. And we’ve got infrastructure in the ground that’s over 50 years old. And it’s not uncommon to have a break annually. And that could be from thaws and freezing, or poor material, as we just discovered with the break on June 5.
Meanwhile, French also threw a bouquet of thanks to Town staff who worked tirelessly on repairing the lines.
“I have to acknowledge the work of our staff, who were out all day Saturday and Saturday night, into Sunday, repairing it, working through the night, and they did a fantastic job, and now, many of them are going to be working long hours into the night again,” he said.
French also thanked residents for their patience.
“From some of the messages we’ve been receiving, most people are pretty reasonable and understanding,” he noted.
French said should it be necessary, the Town will provide temporary water to residents where needed.
The cost estimate for these latest repairs is yet to be determined.