Heavy equipment sits at the corner of Sunnydale Road and 88 Street Feb. 24. Twenty-five residences will have their February utilities bills waived to compensate being without water for three days. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It was a long waterless weekend for the occupants of 25 Morinville residences over the Feb. 22 weekend. A water main break at the intersection of Sunnydale Road and 88 Street left residents without water from 1:30 p.m. Feb. 22 until 1:30 p.m. Feb. 25.
The following evening Council voted unanimously in favour of Councillor Lisa Holmes’ motion to waive those property owner’s February utilities bill.
Prior to Holmes’ motion, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Debbie Oyarzun and Director of Public Works Claude Valcourt brought council up to speed on what transpired and why it took so long to resolve the problem.
The Director of Public Works said had the water main broken in the summer it would not have been an issue because it would be easier to detect. With winter frost, the escaping water travelled elsewhere to find its route to the surface. Although water was visibly streaming from one yard, excavating the yard did not find the leak, only where the water stream made it to the surface.
“It was very difficult to pinpoint where the break actually was, short of having several holes and guessing,” Valcourt said, adding Epcor was brought in with detection equipment to isolate where the break was. “Within literally 10 minutes [they] had pinpointed the distance from the valve to where the leak was. It was within a foot. Very, very impressive.”
Oyarzun said securing the services to make sure other lines were not affected and acquiring a track hoe and operator over the weekend added to the timeline. “This did occur over the weekend, so that was another challenge, getting everyone on site,” she said, adding the communications among Public Works staff made a difficult situation a bit better. “We had Public Works staff that were going door to door informing residents of what had taken place and, based on the information we had at that moment in time, what to expect.”
Additionally, bottled water was delivered to homes and water pressure was restored intermittently to allow homes to flush toilet bowls, easing the burden of being waterless. The arena was kept open until midnight each night to give residents access to washing facilities.
While Valcourt and Oyarzun were appreciative of the assist from Epcor, Fortis Alberta, Telus, and Public Works staff, they are also appreciative of the residents’ patience.
A letter was distributed Feb. 26 to the affected residents outlining what occurred over the weekend and what steps were taken to address the break. “We sent this letter out to the residents thanking them for their patience and cooperation,” Oyarzun said. “It was an inconvenience for them to be without water.”
Measures were put in place to reduce the impact should a future break occur at that location. While the road was dug up for the repair a new valve was put in place that would limit the impact to just five residences instead of 25.