Pie-IX Blvd. water main break leads to 209 flood claims against Montreal

Nearly six weeks after a major reinforced-concrete pipe burst on Pie-IX Boulevard, flooding dozens of homes, it's still a mystery what caused the pipe to fail.

Nearly 6 weeks after major pipe ruptured, flooding dozens of homes, city still doesn't know why pipe failed

Dozens of homes and cars were flooded, including these on 21st Ave., when a major pipe burst on Pie-IX Blvd. in October. (CBC/Leah Hendry)

The city of Montreal has received 209 claims for flood damage caused by a major water main break that engulfed parts of St. Michel and St. Léonard in October.

Just before dawn on Oct. 30, police got a call about water gushing into the street at the corner of Pie-IX Boulevard and Villeray Street.

It took city crews about five hours to shut off water valves and find the initial break in the 1.2-metre (48-inch) pipe, leaving several city blocks knee-deep in water. Dozens of basements and garages were flooded.

Electricity was temporarily cut off to the affected neighbourhoods, and a boil-water advisory was also issued for three boroughs.

It took Montreal city crews five hours to turn off the valve on the 1.2-metre pipe after it burst in late October. (CBC/Leah Hendry)

Residents had 15 days after the flood to file a claim with the city. 

Of the 209 claims that came in, 32 were for damaged vehicles. The rest was for damage to real estate.

To put that in perspective, the city received a total of 346 claims related to broken water pipes in 2013 and 465 in 2014. 

By mid-November of this year, the city had received 610 claims, which it said includes most of the claims related to the Pie-IX Boulevard incident.

The city has 60 days to resolve the claims and doesn't expect to settle them until the New Year.

Pipe failure surprising

Six weeks later, it's still a mystery what caused the pipe, which was made of reinforced concrete, to fail.

"It's surprising that it happened at all," said Ronald Gehr, a McGill University professor of civil engineering who specializes in municipal sewage and water systems.

"Let's face it, how often does this kind of thing happen?" Gehr asked. "It's very rare to have such a major pipe, such a large pipe, failing."

After the break, traffic was closed to Pie-IX Boulevard for more than a week to allow crews to repair the water main and replace two other segments that showed signs of corrosion.

100-year life span

The water main is about 50 years old and was supposed to have a 100-year life span.

It was last inspected in 2012 and showed no signs at the time of failure or breakage. 

The city is still investigating and working in the area to prevent other breaks.

Gehr said the city is likely looking at construction records, doing soil sampling and studying groundwater flow to understand what happened to trigger the incident.

Philippe Sabourin, a city spokesman, said Montreal also plans more camera inspections inside the pipe to help identify any weaknesses.

Based on those results, Sabourin said new observation wells may need to be dug to inspect the outside of the pipe.


Leah Hendry is a TV, radio and online journalist with CBC Montreal Investigates. Send tips to


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