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Port aux Basques water leak update

by René J. Roy

The town of Port aux Basques continues to work on a water leak again tonight, Tuesday, July 19.

“That line is our main supply. There is no alternate line,” said Town Manager Leon MacIsaac. “It’s old, and there may come a time one of these days when it’s probably just gonna fail altogether.”

The line runs from the water treatment plant, across to Grand Bay bottom, underneath the Trans Canada highway by the transfer shed. MacIsaac estimates it’s buried 50 feet deep beneath the highway. It runs underground until it comes up on High Street by K & M garage, before branching East and West.

The area the town is working in to repair the leak is meant to be an access area for inspection only, says MacIsaac.

“It’s in a concrete chamber, which is…. I don’t know. I can’t really give you a size other than it’s very small. It’s meant to hold a pipe and maybe a worker down there. So you’ve got two guys down there in a hole working side by side, taking turns with a chipping hammer,” said MacIsaac.

“When the contractor put the pipe in years ago, probably not expecting repairs or not with the forethought of repairs because the pipe is lying so close to the floor of this chamber, you can’t get nothing underneath, which would be a repair band. You need at least four inches, which doesn’t exist. The pipe is sitting right on the floor, so you’ve got to be careful where you’re chipping that you don’t damage the pipe. So they’ve managed to cut and chip away enough to get that repair band on it.”

The band is about 18 inches wide, and MacIsaac estimates that they’ve chipped about six inches into the reinforced concrete.

“It’s a very small area, and you can’t be hunched over for hours and hours on end,” said MacIsaac.

The workers are taking turns climbing in and out of the hole to chip, and in addition to being careful where they swing the hammer, they must be cautious of breathing in dust and debris while they work.

“It’s not fun. I’ve been down in it,” said MacIsaac. “Before they could get down into the chamber, the water was blowing through the roof of the chamber, so that means there was six feet of water inside that chamber before they started.”

MacIsaac says the crew hopes to get it fixed within the next couple of hours, but admits they have said that each time they call they say pretty much the same thing.

“It gets delayed,” said MacIsaac. “The concrete has also got large rocks put in with it. It’s the way they did concrete years ago, using rocks as fill. So you encounter a rock and you’ve got to use a different chisel bit and beat through that, and then you can get back to the concrete again, or you hit a piece of rebar and you’ve got to cut that off and work your way around it again.”

The water will be turned on again this evening at some point regardless of whether or not repairs need to continue tomorrow.

“Getting the pressure in the pipe is what took so long in the first place.”

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