• John Jantak

Frigid weather blamed for unprecedented number of broken and frozen water pipes in Pincourt


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Pincourt public works employees work to repair a broken water pipe on 19th Avenue on Monday, February 23

The extremely frigid temperatures that have gripped southern Quebec since the beginning of the year have resulted in several water pipe ruptures throughout Pincourt and L’Île Perrot. Pincourt public works employees were kept busy digging up the frozen ground to repair a broken water pipe on 19th Avenue on Monday, February 23, the sixth since January 1st.

“Unfortunately, water main breaks tend to happen in this kind of weather,” said Town Manager Michel Perrier. The six breaks within such a short period of time are unprecedented for the town, said Perrier, who directly attributes the problem to the unrelenting severe cold wave that has seen overnight temperatures dip at times to around minus 40° Celsius with the wind chill. But unlike the neighbouring municipality of L’Île Perrot, the town has been fortunate because no breaks have occurred to any of its major water pipes, said Perrier.

Last Thursday, a major water pipe burst beneath Don Quichotte Boulevard near Grand Boulevard causing many businesses and households in the area to lose water. This prompted Pincourt to supply water to L’Île Perrot for almost 72 hours to deal with the emergency situation until repairs were completed.

“We opened some valves to provide water at certain strategic intersections to make sure their supply was not interrupted,” said Perrier. “It was one of the main pipes in their aqueduct network,” he said. “It took longer to repair because we (municipalities) don’t stock that kind of pipe in our inventory. It’s too big and costly. By the time you get the equipment and everything, it generally takes around 48 to 72 hours to repair this kind of break.

“We’re pretty fortunate because even though we’ve had a few breaks, and I’ll use the term ‘minor’ reluctantly, they were relatively minor and didn’t affect a lot of citizens,” Perrier added. “I know it’s very inconvenient when anyone loses water, but our breaks only aff ected about two dozen properties each time, which isn’t that bad when you consider we serve 6,000 residences and businesses.” Another problem that has also aff ected nine properties in Pincourt so far this year is frozen entry points that has stopped the flow of water into several homes and least one business, which is also unprecedented.

“Only one or two incidents are reported to the town during a normal winter,” said Perrier. “People open their faucets and there’s no water running because it’s frozen solid. We have to intervene at this point. It’s because of the frost and there’s not much we can do about that. “When a frozen pipe is reported, we call a specialized company that will intervene by using electricity to thaw the pipe,” Perrier added. “If that fails, the town will have to dig into the ground to replace the pipe. Fortunately, we haven’t had to do that so far.”

Perrier anticipates there could be more water pipe breaks when warmer weather eventually rolls around. “It’s a strange phenomenon, but when the temperature rises at ground level, the frost in the ground has a tendency to push deeper into the ground. If the frost is at a depth of six feet right now, it could push lower to seven, eight or nine feet, so we could experience more problems.

“We know where our critical areas are so we’re monitoring them very closely,” Perrier added. “We also take regular water pressure readings throughout the entire network, almost every hour including overnight. This way we know when there’s a problem in the network.” Pincourt’s public works employees have been credited for their rapid response and diligent work to repair breaks as quickly as possible.

Water was restored to households on 19th Avenue by suppertime on Tuesday evening; about six hours after repairs began at noon. The frigid weather also has resulted in several water pipe breaks in the City of Montreal and neighbouring West Island communities this winter. Beaconsfield and Pointe Claire repaired one broken pipe each within the past week.

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