Conservation group denies holding up storm drain repairs

A local conservation group is firing back over claims it slowed down repair work on an east-end storm drain pipe that collapsed last week and created the sinkhole on Highway 174.

More sections of concrete pipe to arrive this week

A local conservation group is firing back over claims it slowed down repair work on an east end storm-drain pipe that collapsed last week and created the sinkhole on Highway 174.

The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority said the city asked to start work to repair the 3.5-metre-wide pipe in April but didn't object when told of the construction ban covering the annual fish spawning season, from March 15 to July 1.

The Conservation Authority's director of planning, Don Maciver, said if the city had indicated the work needed to be done immediately, his group would have allowed it to go ahead. 
This sinkhole swallowed Juan Pedro's four-door sedan as he drove home during rush hour Tuesday in east Ottawa. (Photo courtesy of Ottawa Fire Services)

"For emergency situations, we're certainly more than willing to work with the city or anybody that has legitimate emergency situation to modify those time frames and look for additional mitigation to protect the environment, but allow the project to proceed," said Maciver.

The city could have begun the work to replace the storm drain pipe after July 1, the contractor, Louis Bray, didn't start moving equipment in until late August.

Infrastructure manager Alain Gonthier told the city's transportation committee last week the pipe that collapsed was inspected just last summer. While it was identified as in need of replacement, it "did not show signs of imminent failure," he said.

Workers didn't begin cleaning out the pipe until Tuesday, Sept. 4. The pipe collapsed later that same day, creating a sinkhole that swallowed the car of motorist Juan Unger as he drove on the road. Unger climbed out with only minor injuries, and the car was finally removed Friday night. 
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Sunday that crews have been working around the clock to prepare Highway 174's eastbound lanes for the replacement of the storm drain. (CBC)

On Friday Councillor Stephen Blais questioned whether the work could have been done earlier had the conservation authority not intervened.

Maciver said it was "regrettable" the way his organization had been portrayed and said spring restrictions on waterworks repairs are routine.

City adds buses to east-end commute

Eight of the concrete pipes needed to replace a storm drain arrived in Ottawa by Sunday, and crews started to install them Monday.

The pipe sections are being manufactured in Toronto.

Detours remain in place for the eastbound commute. To alleviate congestion, the city has added two double-decker buses to the afternoon rush-hour commute to Orleans.

The city has also recommended that people stagger their work hours to avoid rush hour.