The broken water main on Wharf Road (Photo credit: Mathew Reisler)
The boil water advisory in Bracebridge lasted for five days, and the District of Muskoka’s Director of Water and Wastewater Services says it’s unlikely they could have lifted it any sooner.
“I’m not sure what time could have been saved,” he says. “Speeding up the process would have been difficult if not impossible.”
Marcus Firman explains the pipe burst just after 11 PM Saturday. “It took some time to find it,” he explains. “With water main breaks, it normally doesn’t take much time to find it. they cause a big puddle in the road.” With this one, there was no evidence to be found. “It was actually going into the river,” Firman says. When they did find the pipe along Wharf Road Sunday morning, he says it took workers until early Tuesday morning to repair it. Once repairs were finished, multiple water samples were taken and sent to a laboratory for testing. Firman says that the process takes at least 24 hours. The newly installed water main also had to be flushed. Firman says that process normally takes a week or longer, but his team was able to do it in two days.
A debrief was held Friday morning to go over what could have caused the break and what could be done to prevent a similar break from happening.
Firman explains the pipe that broke was installed in 1994, which is fairly new for PVC pipes. “That may seem like a long time, but the expected life for a PVC pipe is anywhere up to 100 years,” he explains.
When it was taken out from the ground it was “totally shattered” lengthwise. “Like spiral cracks along the whole pipe,” Firman says. “It was like it came unzipped.” The pipe has been sent to a laboratory to be analyzed to hopefully figure out what caused the break.
Firman speculates the break could have been caused by multiple different things – or a combination of failures. He says a fatigue break could have caused it. “A pipe like this gains a lot of strength from the bedding it’s in,” he adds. “Some of the bedding when we exposed the pipe was not optimal. Some of it was shattered rock.”
The water main was also near a bend pointing towards the river. “With all bends, they should be restrained or thrust blocked so they can’t move,” Firman explains. He says the bank was under the flood waters which could have weakened the bank and moved the thrust block.
The pipe also didn’t have much cover from the elements. Firman speculates the changing temperature could have caused damage to the pipe.
“All of these could be factors,” he says. “That’s why it’s going to take time to determine the exact cause of the failure.”