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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Advisory of the Day



This story is brought to you in part by Idenergie

Last week the town of Sept-Îles, Québec was subject to three major water main breaks in a short space of time. When residue was found to be causing a brown discolouration of the tap water, affected residents were informed not to consume the tap water and use bottled water as a replacement. Sept-Îles crews were able to fix the issues late last week and the boil notice was lifted for most of the municipality, only the Clarke sector is still urged to boil their water before consuming, until further notice.

On April 4, the municipality reported a "major break in the water main, [and asked] citizens in all sectors to boil water" before consuming. Over the course of the next six hours, the town experienced two more breaks which changed the situation. The next morning making reference to the additional line breaks Sept-Îles announced that "the colour of the water may be affected."

Later on, April 5, the town posted that the brown discolouration of the water was "caused by residues in the pipes, which have been spread by the breakage." In the case that residents found that their water had been affected Sept-Îles urged citizens "not to consume the water and use bottled water." In addition, residents who experienced this problem were told not to use the hot water, as to not stain their water heaters.

In its communiqués to residents, the town underlined that their "teams were on the ground working to repair breakages as soon as possible." On April 6, the city announced that work on the damaged infrastructure "was completed [that] morning." The boil notice would be upheld through Sunday.

We were informed by the town's communications department that water main breaks at this time of year are not unusual, it was that they "had three major breaks at the same time" that is out of the ordinary.

This type of event doesn't just affect towns in the Côte-Nord region of Québec, because of our climate this is an issue that touches municipalities across the country. In fact, the City of Edmonton views "extreme temperature fluctuations in the winter and spring [as] a leading cause of water outages." Water mains are susceptible to breakage when the ground shifts due to freezing and thawing that occurs as the weather begins to warm up.

The City of Vancouver views main breaks as a "top priority." as it can interrupt water service and cause damage to property. In 2015 the city responded to 121 main breaks and reported that 68% "occurred "During the winter months." Vancouver spent over $13 million on operating and maintenance in 2015.

Saskatoon operates a program that monitors main breaks then selects the locations with the "highest break rates for [infrastructure] replacement." Main breaks are a major concern for Saskatoon as well as other Canadian municipalities.

Are Canadians ready to pay more taxes to fund drinking water infrastructure?

In the 2016 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Survey an average of 49% of Canadians are willing to pay more tax to upgrade ageing infrastructure to ensure safe drinking water. Of the six regions, British Columbia lead the way with 57% in favour and Québec being the least in favour with only 36% of respondents willing to pay more tax.

The Canadian government for their part has allocated $2 billion through the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, that provides funding for infrastructure upgrades.

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