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Monday, March 29, 2010

Water emergency as pipeline breaks - Londoners asked to use less for at least one day

THE LONDON FREE PRESS IS REPORTING:

Londoners are being urged to reduce their water consumption for at least a day while engineers struggle to fix a huge break in the pipeline that supplies drinking water to most of London and Huron and Middlesex counties.
More than 350,000 people in a host of communities are served by that pipeline, which broke at about 2 a.m. this morning near Mount Carmel, in western Huron County.

Water from the pipeline break has formed about a five-acre lake in a farmer's field near Mount Carmel and is flowing across Blackbush Line road north of Mount Carmel.

The road has been closed as work crews survey the site of the rupture in the farm field.

Rick Grenier, a City of London supervisor on the scene, said crews are now isolating the line, shutting valves on either side so workers can move in.

Grenier estimated they might have to excavate as much as three metres of soil to repair the line.

If it is a single section that has ruptured, repairs could be completed this evening, he said. The line would have to be disinfected before it was put back in operation.

The early impact of the break:

-- A precautionary boil-water advisory is out for communities from Grand Bend to Crediton. The precaution is based on low water pressure rather than unclean water samples, said Barbara Leavitt, spokesperson for the Huron County board of health. Some customers, she said, have reported having no water at all.  They include customers in Ailsa Craig and some areas north of Parkhill.

— Also included in the appeal to cut consumption are the municipalities of Bluewater, South Huron, Lambton Shores, Lucan Biddulph, North Middlesex (all North Middlesex Customers on the municipal system are out), Middlesex Centre, and Strathroy Caradoc.

- Four schools in Middlesex are closed because of low water pressure: McGillivray, East Williams, Parkhill West Williams and North Middlesex High School. Thames Valley District school board spokesman Richard Hoffman said if any child is already at the school and parents can't be reached, the child will be kept at school.
Andrew Henry, who is in charge of managing the Lake Huron water supply, said it will take 24- 36 hours to repair the break. "People should prepare for at least one day," he said. "We're still asking for everyone to conserve water," he said.

The Lake Huron pipeline serves a population of about 350,000 people.

It has the capacity to treat 340 million litres of water a day — the equivalent of more than two million showers.

Henry said the reservoirs are being kept as full as possible and London's drinking water is now coming from the Elgin pipeline, from Lake Erie.

Henry speculated that high water pressure and the age of the pipeline – it's 45 years old — were factors in the break.

North Middlesex Mayor Mayor Wes Hodgson said he is “pissed off” because officials have been talking about twinning the line for years and nothing’s been done.

“If London had got off its ass and so had OCWA (Ontario Clean Water Association) we wouldn’t have had this problem,” he said. “Somebody’s got to get going on this because it’s critical.”

Parkhill has about four or five hours of water left in its reservoir, he said. Ailsa Craig’s water is shut down entirely.  Hodgson said a lot of livestock and poultry farms in North Middlesex are hooked into the water system and are now shut down. Those farms with tanker trucks and urgent need can truck clean water in from Grand Bend, he said.

Strathroy has a 50-hour supply of water in its reservoir, said Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Mel Veale.  "I made it clear this morning, even if we have water for 2 and a half days, we need to conserve water today," he said.
"Bottom line is we're going to conserve water as best we can."

Veale said a rupture and loss of service is "one of the risks you take" when you move from municipal wells to a pipeline.

Ironically, an environmental assessment — the first stage of a watermain replacement - was just about to begin because of concerns about the age of the pipe, Henry said. "Unfortunately, it broke before we could do it," Henry said.

Crews are now building a temporary road through the farmer's field to the huge pond that has been created by the break of the high-pressure, 48-inch pipeline. "There's a lot of water (there)," Henry said.

Farmers who rely on the pipeline to feed their livestock are scrambling now to find alternate sources.

Van Osch Farms, an 8,000-head beef operation just south of the line break at Mt. Carmel, went to a system of drilled wells two years ago, said co-owner Fred Van Osch.  Even so, one barn of 500 cattle is on lake water only and operators are looking at a contingency plan that would truck water into that barn by tanker. One head of cattle can drink as much as 20 gallons (90 litres) per day, he said.

For the duration, residents with municipal water all along the pipeline are being asked to:
- Limit or postpone indoor residential use of water and consider using dishwashers and clothes washers after the emergency period has ended.
- Take a brief shower rather than a bath, or consider delaying until after the emergency period has ended.
- Reduce toilet flushing as much as possible. Consider flushing the toilet every second use.
- Suspend unnecessary use of water for industrial or commercial establishments, as well as construction sites, such as washing operations.


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