Montrose residents were desperate for an explanation Wednesday night after a water main breakage three weeks ago forced water restrictions on the community.
Over 60 people packed Montrose community hall for a public meeting in which the village chief administrative officer Kevin Chartres presented residents of the area with information about what damage occurred from the water pipe break on May 3, and what the current status of the repairs were at.
The community was eager to hear what was happening and many had questions about how the project was being pursued.
“It bothers me when we hire engineers who don’t serve us well,” said Ken Rugg, a man who lives near the destroyed property. “There are a lot of qualified people in this area and council should be talking to people in this community. Now that’s just my opinion—nobody is going to think you’re stupid if you ask questions; not asking them is.”
Rugg is not an engineer by trade, but he has experience working with water systems. He said it’s basic to install an alarm to alert officials if there are any future problems, and add a drainpipe to minimize where excess water runs if the new pipe leaks to decrease the damage.
He said the damage would probably still exist if there was a drainpipe, but the scale of the problem could have been reduced if the water had a place to escape.
“I don’t blame council,” said Rugg, “I blame the engineers. (Council) started making repairs quickly— it isn’t easy being a public official.”
Scott Wallace, engineer for TRUE Consulting, said the village is going to improve the chamber configuration with a piped drain out of the chamber with more capacity than the drain to rockpit which was previously in place.
“The town hall meeting was very worthwhile,” said Wallace. “It was good to hear some of the specific concerns of the community. We were already planning various improvements to the valve chamber including drain piping, but after some of the comments made at the meeting.
“We will now be ensuring the chamber drainage has more substantial capacity.”
Beaver Falls and Montrose are still on Stage 3 water restrictions after a break in the water lines destroyed 10,000 m3 of property on May 3. The breakage was related to a problem with the welding on the main water line’s valves.
Chartres said that it’s possible the village will be switching back to Montrose water shortly. He expects the water ban to remain until village council issues further instructions.
Some villagers expressed an interest in what kind of upgrades were being done to the water chamber. Chartres said valves were being replaced, the soil was being refurbished around the manhole—allowing crews that work on site to be lowered into the job without special equipment—and communications systems to alert officials of problems.
One of the upgrades could mean incorporating a new technology called SCADA, allowing the village to monitor the water system with smart phone technology. There are several upgrade choices and council is expected to engage the community in a future discussion.
It’s like going to McDonalds, these are all choices that you have, Chartres explained during the meeting.
“You can pick one of them or all of them and I’m sure there will be plenty of discussions about it in the future,” he said.
Other members of the community asked about the progress of the work and how the pressure test will be done on the new pipe, and will it be flushed to make sure that there aren’t any rocks remaining the water pipe.
Chartres looked to Wallace for answers.
He said the pipes have been flushed to make sure that they will run clearly and expected to see a few more tests to flush any remaining materials down the pipe.
At a council meeting the day before, Chartres compared the colour of water to that of chocolate milk during the first flush.
“But we ran the water until it was clear,” Chartres concluded.
The Stage 3 Water Restrictions were put in place on May 3. The restriction bans residents from washing vehicles, running garden hoses or watering their lawns until further notice. Mayor Danchuk emphasized that it’s essential for residents only to use water for household purposes.