Water, water everywhere

Bonnie Belec
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St. John’s city workers contend with another water main break

The Fortis Building’s parking garage on the corner of Harbour Drive and Prescott Street in downtown St. John’s Friday as water gushes out with the assistance of sump pumps. An overnight water main break at the corner flooded the garage and almost fully submerged two vehicles parked there. —Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

By the time a water main break is fixed on Harbour Drive in St. John’s, millions of gallons of drinking water will have ended up in the harbour.

“This (break) started to drain the whole system right from Windsor Lake to here. That’s why people were experiencing low pressure and loss of water,” said Paul Mackey, the city’s director of public works. “You’re talking millions and millions of gallons of water an hour.”  

Crews had been on the scene all day and while they weren’t able to identify exactly what happened, they hoped to have the break fixed by Friday evening.

“About 2:30 (Friday) morning we started getting reports from the higher areas of the city like Pleasant Street and Springdale Street. So at that point we assumed we had a major water main break somewhere. Our supervisors were out looking for that and shortly after we determined there was a break here at the east end of Harbour Drive. We assumed it is in the main transmission line, and of course, it became quite evident when the water came to the surface there was a major break,” he said.

Mackey said late Friday morning he wasn’t sure what happened.

“At this point we’re just starting our excavation. Exactly what did happen — whether the pipe failed or a major service line came apart — it could be a number of things. Until we get the excavation done and get down to see what happened, we won’t know,” he said.

Mackey said given the pipes are located at a low elevation, the water pressure is high so it became evident pretty quickly where the water was coming from.  

“A lot of water quickly came out and there was some flooding in the low lying parking lots around the Fortis Properties building. We know the parking lots were flooded and measures were taken to have those pumped out.”

Mary Tucker, manager of communications for Fortis Properties, said the building’s parking lot was flooded, but because they had been notified early in the morning about the water main break, employees found alternate parking.

However, she said, the company is aware there were a couple of vehicles in the parking garage when it was flooded and staff were attempting to find the owners.

“We were without water for several hours, but then we got it back. The TD Building does not have water, but we do have a water truck outside,” Tucker said late Friday morning.

 Mackey said there were some residences and businesses without water while crews tried to determine what happened and make repairs.

 “Just in this immediate area we got the water main shut down about 6:15 (Friday) morning and from that point the pressure started to restore and the rest of the system, other than this small area from Duckworth down Prescott Street west of Cliff Baird Cove, is the only small area affected and some of those business have a feed of water from Water Street. So not too many businesses were affected,” he said.

Mackey, who’s been kept busy during the past several days with water main breaks and leaks around the city, said the most recent break on Queen’s Road probably doesn’t have anything to do with the one on Harbour Drive.

“There’s always a possibility when you’re turning valves you can cause a disruption in the service, a pressure surge in the system, but we don’t think this is connected to that. The main water break on Queen’s Road was relatively small and shouldn’t have any affect on this,” he said.

The first in this latest series of leaks was reported in the area of Austin Street last week, which was identified through the district metered area study.

A corroded pipe, leaking 1.44 million litres of water a day, was found to be the culprit.

A contractor is working to fix that leak, which has been placed on high priority.



Organizations: Fortis Properties

Geographic location: Pleasant Street, Springdale Street, Prescott Street Water Street Austin Street

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