Public Opinion Survey Finds Londoners Blame the City's Aging Water Pipes for Downtown Sinkhole, Want System Improvements to Avoid Future Disruptions

    LONDON, ON, Nov. 21 /CNW/ - In the wake of the recent burst watermain in
downtown London - and the sinkhole and power blackout that ensued - an
overwhelming majority of residents (92%) either strongly or somewhat agree
that the city should increase its spending on replacing old water and sewer
pipes, presumably so that similar problems like this do not occur in the
    A new Ipsos Reid poll of more than 500 Londoners aware of the accident
found that most (83%) believe the cause was the age of the pipes and the fact
that they should have been replaced long ago, while 9% say that it was due to
a lack of inspections and 7% believe that it was a random accident.
    As efforts continue to restore the downtown area where the accident
occurred, significant costs will no doubt be expended in order to repair the
damage. With this in mind, nine in ten area residents either strongly or
somewhat agree that maintaining and upgrading water pipes should be one of the
highest priorities for the city. A similar number believe it would have cost a
lot less to replace the old pipes than it is going to cost now to fix the
burst watermain and sinkhole.
    The poll, conducted on behalf of the Ontario Sewer and Watermain
Construction Association (OSWCA), reveals that Londoners are virtually
unanimous (98%) in their understanding that 'these situations cause major
disruptions for people and businesses'. And they are concerned that the
problems may not be addressed, with 91% either strongly or somewhat agreeing
that 'we'll see more watermain bursts and sinkholes in the future because the
pipes are in such poor condition'.
    "What is interesting about these numbers is not just the overwhelming
degree to which Londoners support increased spending on maintenance of the
water and sewer pipes in their city, but also the intensity with which they
agree," says Sean Simpson of Ipsos Reid. "The fact that a substantial
proportion of Londoners strongly believe that these pipes need to be replaced
is sending a profound message to policy makers."
    In order to pay for the maintenance of water and sewer pipes, nearly all
(93%) agree that 'it is prudent for the city to put revenue from water bills
into a dedicated reserve so that money is used only for improvements to the
water system.'
    When asked if they would be willing to pay more than they are now for
their water and sewer services (40 cents more a day was suggested) so the
system could be improved, nearly one half (45%) said they would support such a
rate increase. A majority (55%), however, would not be in favour of this
    While 70% of residents claim to have already been aware of the aging
water system in the city, 30% say this situation is the first time that
they've really ever heard or thought about the issue.
    "London is not alone in now having to address the consequences of years
of inadequate funding for water and sewer pipes. It is a major challenge right
across the province," said Frank Zechner, Executive Director of OSWCA.
    "What this poll tells us is that people expect their municipality to deal
with the issue, not through band-aid approaches, but by making significant new
investments in replacing old systems," he noted. "People don't want a
temporary fix. They want a lasting solution. And they insist that their local
government make this a priority."
    OSWCA is a strong supporter of full-cost pricing - setting water rates at
levels that cover the full cost of operations, maintenance and upgrades - so
that municipalities such as London are able to sustain their water systems.
This was a major recommendation of the Walkerton Inquiry.

    OSWCA is committed to the construction, rehabilitation, maintenance and
expansion of Ontario's core water and wastewater infrastructure to ensure a
plentiful supply of clean water and the preservation of our lakes and rivers.
Established in 1971, the association represents over 700 companies within the
sewer and watermain construction industry.

    The public opinion survey was conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the
Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association from Nov. 13 to Nov. 15,
2007. For the survey, a representative randomly selected sample of 580
Ontarians living in the City of London, and who were aware of the watermain
break and sinkhole that occurred, was interviewed online. With a sample of
this size, the results are considered accurate to within +/-4.1 percentage
points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult
population been polled. The margin of error will be larger within
sub-groupings of the survey population.

For further information:

For further information: please visit or contact: Frank
Zechner, Executive Director, OSWCA, (905) 629-7766; Rachel Sa, PR POST, (416)
777-0368; Sean Simpson, Research Manager, Ipsos Reid Public Affairs, (416)

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