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PAB faces water system challenges

Emergency repairs required for aging infrastructure

Town workers had to source and repair a large leak on Brook Hill, and a motorist struck a hydrant near Martin’s Corner last Monday, June 5. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — Infrastructure work continues to be a priority for the Town, and that includes unexpected breaks necessitating emergency repair. One of the more pressing issues the Town has been dealing with is the water system. “Just had a call from staff at the water treatment plant indicating that they noticed an elevated level of water use. They’re thinking it was a major leak in the system and shortly thereafter I got a call from the superintendent that somebody had struck a hydrant,” said Town Manager Leon MacIsaac. The driver was not injured, but the hydrant did take damage. “The hydrant is what caused a major flush of water, until we could get it shut down, of course. They got that contained, but there’s a major water leak today (June 5) on Brook Street area where the redevelopment of Brook Street is currently undergoing.” Locating the source of the water leak wasn’t all that easy. “A lot of the information up there is old infrastructure with very little details on depth and location, and it’s plastic pipe, so it’s very difficult to locate,” said MacIsaac. “Typically your water main is either made of a couple of different products is Doler stall concrete, and then there’s cast iron, which is easy to trace. And then the newer product has been – I shouldn’t say new, has been it for a number of years – it’s called Blue Brute. It goes by another name too. It only just recently came out of the market. It’s bionics pipe, I think it is. Similar pipe is made for water mains and has a higher level of stress capability than what Blue Brute does. Unfortunately, plastic pipe, when it breaks, it’s catastrophic breaks and not small ones.” These larger damages mean a lot more work will be necessary to complete repairs. “If it cracks, it cracks the entire length. It doesn’t crack in one spot. A cast iron pipe will break just in an immediate spot, which you have put a repair band on, but when you straighten the plastic pipe, it’ll split. The whole length is under pressure,” explained MacIsaac. “So now you have to take a dig up and replace the full length as a result of that. That’s still important. It works very well and lasts a long period of time, as long as you don’t damage it. That’s the big thing.” Workers were still sourcing the leak later that afternoon. “They’re just waiting to get all the shut offs on so you can go to investigate, see exactly where the line is running to, because it does crisscross because of mineral rock in it. I think years ago it was more prudent to go around rock than go through it, whereas nowadays, we will blast or bust through rather than reroute it along,” said MacIsaac. “They never had those capabilities years ago. When they originally went in, it was very expensive and very hard to find equipment as well.” Water mains haven’t been the only infrastructure issue the Town has had to deal with in recent weeks. During the last town council meeting, there was a report about a sanitation sewer on Allen’s Road that has also been causing trouble. “The College of the North Atlantic is on a forced main because of it’s elevation, so there is a sewage lift station at the college, pumps it uphill to Allen’s Road, and then it follows the manhole system to its outfall point,” explained MacIsaac. “Between the manhole, where there was an issue, there was a new home under construction, trying to find the line, and when it was dug up, they found there was a portion of it was collapsed, which was the issue. It was collapsed between the points where there’s no connection, so it wasn’t discovered until the new house went to go in there. That part was collapsed, so that was repaired and replaced.” The water main was repaired by last Monday evening. Even though there was a lot of extensive damage from Hurricane Fiona, the current issues with the water main are not a result of the storm, but rather mostly normal breaks that can happen for any number of reasons. “When we were doing the Grand Bay Road storm service system thing, it was last spring, the contractor struck the water main three times in a matter of a couple of days and each one was a major break,” said MacIsaac. “So you had to go in, dig it up, put a repair on, bury it back in. It’s really the guy in the machine, really how well they can operate machine and sense when they’re getting too close. If you struck it the first time, you have a mistake. Second or third time, you’re not being careful.” Storm sewer upgrades are also underway in several spots. “There are projects currently going out. The Pleasant Street rehab, which is resurfacing the street, plus going into underground infrastructure that is old and needs to be repaired,” said MacIsaac. “High Street storm water system up near Midway Road and Seaward’s Lane, is to find, reconnect and divert some systems and reconnect them to that new drop. Grand Bay West water main between Grand Bay Road and the bay, plus we also had a major break in the water main going across Grand Bay Bottom as a result of Hurricane Fiona. So there’s 145 meters that needs to be replaced, and Grand Bay West needs to be repaved between Kyle Lane and Grand Bay Road.” There are currently twelve different projects scheduled for 2023, not including projects related to the damage stemming from Hurricane Fiona. “We’ve got the salt shed, waiting for that to go back and re-tender now and get that put away, and there’s a number of other projects. I’m sure there’s a couple missing along the way, but a lot of them are carried over,” said MacIsaac. The Bruce II energy retrofit is also on the town’s agenda. “We have funding of three and a half million dollars, to do an envelope retrofit of the building, so that’s going through with the initial meetings. There’s one coming up with federal government soon,” said MacIsaac. “There’s twelve separate projects, which is roughly $14-15 million, not including the Fiona-related damages that we’re trying to keep track of, so trying to keep all those numbers in the forefront and juggle them and make sure that they all get processed properly.” MacIsaac is doing what he can to get things completed before he ends his time as Town Manager for Port aux Basques, a role he has filled since 2017. He is scheduled to retire at the end of this year. “Pretty much every town street has a water main beneath it. Not every one, but that’s something they don’t have in place here now. I’ve been working on this since I came here. I got property parcels in I was hoping completed before I left, which would be detailing where every water main is, the curb stops, the valves. A great record was just not kept of all entities,” admitted MacIsaac. “When a project zone comes back, that should be transferred to a master plan where we can keep track of it. There is a master plan, the drawings, but it’s just not accurate, and I was hoping to get the accuracy of that finalized before I left at the end of the year. It may not be possible, but I’m doing the best I can before I finish up. It’ll help people come behind me find it much easier as well.” With regard to the hurricane damaged homes still needing to be demolished, MacIsaac offered a small update. “I think there’s 22 for sure. I can’t recall exactly how many tenders out with the province, demo packages – usually they tried to limit the package to seven or eight homes – but I think there’s three separate packages gone out, the same as it was previously,” said MacIsaac. “So there’ll be homes remaining on Charles Street, Bennett Avenue, Water Street West. There’s still a home on Water Street East still left standing. It was just financial. They want to make sure all the financials were in place before they took down the home. Got Knox Avenue, Baird Street. Once the province gets the floodplain issue figured out, there may be more homes down the road, but that’s still yet to be determined. Quite some time down the road yet.”

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