Driving through sections of Rabbittown in the centre of St. John’s these days is like making your way through an obstacle course, with all the road tear-up and detours.
“Just look at it! What a God damn mess!” said Alan, a resident of Goodridge Street, who didn’t want to give his last name when he stopped to speak with a Telegram reporter Wednesday afternoon.
Residents and business owners in the community have had to endure it for more than seven months as part of the cleaning and structural lining work being done on the watermain.
As a result, large blue hoses from the temporary above-ground water piping system — from which homes and businesses have been getting their water — run along the sidewalks.
Several sections of the community in the centre of St. John’s have been dug up, while bright orange pylons and wooden barricades have been placed in the middle of many streets.
Loose rock — which has spread from the piles of gravel used to cover the repaired sections of road tear-up and section of piping — is scattered over much of the asphalt.
The streets having work done include Goodridge Street, Calver Avenue, Edinburg Street, Rankin Street, Cairo Street, Salisbury Street, Malta Street, Aldershot Street and parts of Mayor Avenue.
The good news is, according to the city, the work is nearing completion and all properties are scheduled to be removed from temporary above ground piping during the next three weeks.
But it can’t be soon enough for many residents.
“They took two months off and now they’re scrambling to get it done,” said Alan, who added the water in the temporary piping froze last week when temperatures dropped. “It’s just going on way too long. Just get it done already, for God’s sake!”
One couple, who has lived on Calver Avenue for 30 years and also only gave their first names, said they will also be glad when it’s over.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Sam, who was walking his dog with his wife, Julia, and stopped at the corner of Aldershot Street to chat.
“Our section is done now and we’re back on city water, but it was quite a disruption ... and with all the (gravel), it’s been dirty. You’re tracking all that in your house on your shoes.”
Sam said all the noise, which can be heard when work begins as early as 7 a.m., has been especially tough for their son, a paramedic who often works late nights.
However, the couple said they understand the work had to be done to reduce maintenance issues and improve water service.
“This is an older section of the city with old pipes,” Sam said. “So, you take the good with the bad.”
Mayor Danny Breen said he can understand residents’ frustration and apologizes for the disruption.
“We’re fed up and frustrated by it as well,” he said. “It’s not how we intended this project should go.”
He said the former sub-contractor ran into some problems with relining the pipes and, as a result, work had to be stopped for several weeks. However, he said the new sub-contractor has added extra resources and is making good progress to complete the work by the end of November. Once repaving is done, he said, things should all be back to normal in the area within the next three weeks.
“I sympathize with the residents and what they’ve gone through,” said Breen, who said the houses are gradually being hooked back up to the city’s water system.
“But it really was something that became beyond our control and steps were taken to get it done as soon as possible.”
Breen stressed the importance of residents keeping a steady flow of water when temperatures drop below zero to prevent pipes from freezing. Although it’s not difficult to deal with, since it’s above-ground piping that can be easily replaced, he said having employees deal with freezing issues takes them away from focusing on finishing the watermain work.
“That’s critical,” Breen said about freezing prevention. “We really want residents to be able to get on with their lives.”