It was cold enough to snap pipe last week, judging by a series of sewer line breaks that kept City of Red Deer staff busy with emergency repairs in frigid temperatures.
Twelve crew members worked 320 hours of overtime dealing with various pipe ruptures, said environmental services manager Tim Ainscough.
“It was really tough on our guys, working in 29, or 30 below… It was hard work, but they’re a great crew and they always make themselves available,” he added.
Because sudden temperature changes cause “issues with frost,” the first sewer break happened in the West Park neighbourhood on Dec. 23. This was followed a few days later by a Dec. 27 incident in Northlands Heavy Industrial Park.
On Dec. 29, line breaks occurred in both Highland Green and Grandview. Ainscough said there actually were two sewer repairs needed in the Grandview neighbourhood, and the more complex one couldn’t get done until Dec. 30.
He believes it helped crews working in the bitter cold over the holidays to feel the public’s gratitude. “Residents in Highland Green and Grandview were bringing out coffees… it’s very positive when residents show their appreciation.”
Although the late December deep freeze was one of the longest cold snaps in recent memory, Ainscough said his department budgets for emergencies, so there’s a contingency to cover overtime pay.
Underground pipes of all eras and materials lie beneath city roads — Ainscough said there’s some pipe from the 1950s, ’60s. “There’s even some that’s 80 years old, or 100.”
While old pipe can weaken, sometimes ground conditions can exacerbate aging, he said. There’s a city program to gradually replace all old cast iron pipes with PVC piping, but will take time to complete.
The Environmental Services department proposed additional funding from the upcoming 2018 operating budget to address aging infrastructure in the Fairview/Riverside Meadows neighbourhoods, which was judged to be most in need of replacement.
Although these neighbourhoods escaped the latest sewer line breaks, Ainscough said “We were lucky this time, but there could be something tomorrow…”
Meanwhile, a water leak has kept Red Deer’s Kinex Arena closed for a second day. The facility that was shut down to the public on Tuesday morning remained closed on Wednesday, but a city spokesperson said it will hopefully reopen on Thursday.