City launches probe of underground pipe system

A probe into what forced a 62-year-old water pipe to release 10 million litres of chlorinated water near the Bellevue Reservoir is continuing.

A probe into what forced a 62-year-old water pipe to release 10 million litres of chlorinated water near the Bellevue Reservoir is continuing.

But the City of Red Deer is not taking any chances with its underground pipe system.

It has launched a full-scale investigation and inspection into the more than 500 km of pipe. The process could take several months.

Tom Marstaller, the city’s Environmental Planning superintendent, said the age of city’s underground infrastructure ranges from pipe that was laid last week to 100 years ago.

“As the city grows, pipe gets installed initially,” he said. “Some of that pipe has been replaced. Some hasn’t. We are constantly trying to keep ahead of pipes before they break but it is a process.”

The pipe that burst on June 25 was laid in 1953.

Marstaller said age is one factor but there are many factors that go into what causes a pipe to break.

The findings of the underground investigation will help inform the pipe replacement capital plan.

“We are always trying to manage our infrastructure to the best of our abilities,” said Marstaller. “Trying to balance off condition versus age versus risk. That’s a bit of an ongoing process.”

The city is finishing up its 55th Street Improvement project, which includes replacing the aging pipe to support future development in Railyards and Riverlands.

It was one of the areas that the city deemed critical, said Marstaller.

The early-morning June 25 leak on the water line occurred 114 metres from the Red Deer River. A portion of the 10 million litres of chlorinated water entered the river. It also damaged infrastructure near the CPR pedestrian bridge and trail.

To date, the city has spent roughly $60,000 to repair the leak and to fix the infrastructure. The pipe has been fixed and a piece was removed for inspection.

Environment Canada and Alberta Environment are investigating the incident.

An investigation is triggered when more than one mg per litre of water with chlorine residuals is discharged. In this incident, 1.84 mg per litre of water were discharged.

Marstaller said these investigations take time and the city is waiting to hear the outcome.

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