Expect Hundreds of Burst Watermains across Ontario Over the Next Six Weeks

    TORONTO, Feb. 26 /CNW/ - The Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction
Association today issued this advisory to residents and motorists in the
province - expect significant disruption and delays resulting from broken
water pipes over the next six weeks.
    "Just as we have a flu season and a mosquito season, we have a burst
watermain season in Ontario and we're just now heading into it," noted Frank
Zechner, Executive Director of OSWCA.
    The thawing and freezing that take place through March and into April
play havoc with the older water pipes still in use. In some municipalities,
parts of water systems date back to the nineteenth century. This is the case
in Ottawa, where some of the watermains went into the ground in the 1870s. In
Toronto, there are roughly 500 km of pipe more than a century old.
    Toronto alone has more than 1,500 burst watermains a year, and Ottawa has
more than 300. These numbers are expected to increase as the water
infrastructure continues to age.
    "Count on it, we'll see a lot of damage and inconvenience caused by burst
watermains this Spring. The situation is not getting any better," Zechner
    The problems will take years to correct because the water systems have
been neglected for decades. It has been estimated that an additional $18
billion will be needed in the next 15 years, over and above current
expenditures, to modernize the water infrastructure in Ontario.
    Burst watermains are the most obvious manifestation of a neglected
system. Underground, the pipes may leak for years, and many drinking water
distribution systems have leakage rates ranging from 10 to 30 per cent of
throughput. This represents an enormous waste of resources as all that treated
water is lost. A study commissioned by OSWCA estimated that leakage is costing
ratepayers across the province more than $160 million a year - money that
could be better used in maintaining and upgrading the system.
    As well, a broken or leaking watermain could compromise fire-fighting
operations, and this could have tragic consequences.
    OSWCA is urging municipalities to make water infrastructure a higher
funding priority. Municipal Councils have the final say for the capital
budgets of most municipal water systems, and sometimes sewer and water systems
don't have the political sizzle of a new recreation centre or other municipal
    "We are heartened, however, to see more municipalities moving to
full-cost pricing so that residents are paying the real cost of water,
including the costs associated with maintenance and upgrades," noted Zechner.

    Did You Know ...

    The cost to repair a burst watermain far exceeds what it would have cost
to properly maintain it. Emergency repairs for a moderate break occurring in a
10-inch diameter pipe costs between $30,000 and $50,000. The cost of a major
sinkhole may exceed $1 million.
    Watermains tend to become more brittle with age. Watermain breaks often
coincide with asphalt pot holes, as the holes are a source of sonic shock that
is transmitted to the pipes.
    The majority of watermain breaks occur at night. Pipes are at their
maximum pressure in the wee hours of the morning due to reduced water demand,
and a brittle pipe is more likely to break or leak when under higher pressure.
    Breaks tend to increase sharply during periods of rapid freeze and thaw
cycles. During March and into April, day time highs can move well above
freezing and overnight lows can drop to the minus 5 to 10 range. The presence
of large quantities of moisture, either as snow melt or rain, will add to the
severity of damage.

    OSWCA has been representing sewer and watermain construction contractors
across the province for more than 35 years, and currently serves over 700
member companies. It is a champion of environmental protection and best
practices in safety and water system management.

For further information:

For further information: Frank Zechner, Executive Director, OSWCA, (905)
629-7766; Rachel Sa, PR POST, (416) 777-0368

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