City enters water main break season

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Mud shoots out of a frozen valve that city workers were unclogging just off Central Avenue on 12th Street West on Wednesday afternoon. 

Although not as well recognized or welcomed as the Christmas season, “water main break season” is upon us and is worthy of attention.

 

So far this water main break season, 19 water mains have broken in Prince Albert, sending water jutting to the surface and crews scrambling to plug things up.

“It really hasn’t been that out of the ordinary,” Public Works director Colin Innes said on Friday, capping off the worst week of the year when it’s come to water main breaks, at four.

“As soon as we started to get that warming trend, is when we had all those main breaks the other day,” he explained.

“Over the next number of weeks we’re going to see more main breaks, for sure.”

The odds are stacked up against the city, with the frost line stretching about 7.5 metres into the earth.

“I can’t remember the last time I heard the guys telling me that the frost was that deep,” he said.

“When you get the thaw (frost) starts to move, and that’s when you get the differential settlement and movement in the ground, and of course that’s when the water mains decide to break.”

This winter’s unusually deep frost line doesn’t necessarily mean more water main breaks, Innes said, noting that if we experience a slow melt things might pan out more favourably for civic crews.

Unfortunately for us, we live in a climate where as long as there’s a freeze/thaw cycle there’s always going to be some number of breaks that occur in a year, and as the infrastructure gets older the problem becomes more pronounced. Colin Innes

Only time will tell how many water main breaks happen, and where in the city they occur, Innes said.

“It’s one of those things where you really can’t predict it, and sometimes it happens in a place where you would least expect it to occur,” he said.

“Unfortunately for us, we live in a climate where as long as there’s a freeze/thaw cycle there’s always going to be some number of breaks that occur in a year, and as the infrastructure gets older the problem becomes more pronounced.”

Innes encourages residents to call the city’s emergency number -- 953-4284 -- if they spot a water main break.

Water main breaks are typically discovered when water begins jutting to the surface, although in rare cases they’re discovered when water begins filling basements or making one’s sump pump run extra hard.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Public Works

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