Montreal

Road salt likely to blame for costly Pie-IX Blvd. water main break

Deterioration from road salt was a major factor in a burst pipe that put an east-end thoroughfare underwater and led to the flooding of hundreds of homes last October. So why is the city still using the mixture?

Councillor sounds alarm about city's decision to continue using mixture that erodes pipes

A Montreal firefighter wades through a flooded street after water main break on Pie-Ix Boulevard in October 2015. (Leah Hendry/CBC)

Deterioration from road salt was a major factor in a burst pipe that put an east-end thoroughfare underwater and led to the flooding of hundreds of homes last October, the City of Montreal says.

The city concluded that salt that had accumulated in small cracks in the water main on Pie-IX Boulevard was to blame for the break, spokesman Philippe Sabourin confirmed in an email.

Sylvain Ouellet, an opposition city councillor responsible for the area, said the Coderre administration isn't doing enough to prevent that disintegration – and prevent another burst main.

The City of Montreal is set to vote on a $546,000 contract next Monday with Pure Technologies Ltd. 

The Calgary-based firm will inspect roughly 10 per cent of city pipes made with the same mix of concrete and steel to determine if they are also at risk. 

The inspections will take two years. 

The city already spent months doing extensive visual and camera inspections of the water main along Pie-IX Boulevard from the Metropolitan Highway to Rosemont Boulevard, but it didn't have the expertise to do the analysis offered by the Calgary-based firm.

Ouellet said the work should be done more quickly, and the current road-salt mixture should no longer be used, considering it's already clear the pipes are susceptible to corrosion.

"We don't want other families to have their basements flooded," he said. 

A better but more costly alternative?

The solution, Ouellet said, is to switch to a less corrosive mixture, even if it costs more.

Last year, the city experimented with more costly, environmentally friendly mixtures to keep roads free of ice.

Ouellet said the Coderre administration abandoned that idea for the coming year due to the high cost.

"It's really strange that the city finally admits the salt is probably the main factor, and in previous months they [forced] boroughs to use only the regular salt, which is more corrosive," said Ouellet, Projet Montréal councillor for Villeray—Saint-Michel—Parc-Extension.

"It's a stupid decision."

More than 600 buildings were flooded and about 250 people were forced out of their homes following the water main break. (CBC)

In the long run, the city will end up saving money by preserving their pipes, he said.

In all, more than 600 buildings were flooded and about 250 people were forced out of their homes when the pipe burst on Pie-IX Boulevard on Oct. 30, 2015.

CBC News Investigates previously documented how a slow response time and poor planning exacerbated the damage following the break.

with files from Leah Hendry

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