Montreal·CBC Investigates

Montreal water main breaks: Slow response, poor planning aggravate problems

CBC Montreal's investigative team looks into why it took took crews five hours to shut off a broken water main in a 4-part series.

In October, a 1.2-metre pipe on Pie-IX Boulevard broke and flooded 7 city blocks

A Montreal firefighter wades through a flooded street after a major water main break in October 2015. (Leah Hendry/CBC)

Last October, a monstrous break on a 1.2-metre (48-inch) pipe in the St-Michel district on the corner of Pie-IX Boulevard at Villeray Street flooded seven city blocks. 

CBC's Leah Hendry looked into why it took took crews five hours to shut the water off, and how Montreal's response time to water main breaks stacks up compared to other cities. 

Here's a breakdown of that four-part series. 

Timeline: Why a major water main break on Pie-IX took 5 hours to fix

The city's detailed timeline of how the emergency repair unfolded on Oct. 30 shows it took five hours to stop the flood. (CBC)

When a 48-inch water main broke at the corner of Pie-IX Boulevard and Villeray Street last Oct. 30, more than 600 buildings were flooded and about 250 people were forced out of their homes.

At 4:52 a.m., emergency operators received a 911 call about water gushing out of a hole. The valves weren't completely shut off until 10 a.m. that day. 

Pie-IX water main break exposes holes in emergency response plan

Pie-IX water main break reveals problems with city planning


5 years agoVideo
A perfect storm of equipment deficiency and expertise gap left the neighbourhood underwater last October. 0:33

CBC Montreal's investigative team discovered that borough crews weren't equipped to repair the break and city water crews were only working on-call, because it was a Friday.

The whole debacle has left the city of Montreal with 209 claims for flood damage, about a third of all water damage claims in 2015. So far 26 of them have settled for a total of $86,240. The majority of claims, 179, are still active.

Pie-IX water main break: Critics slam Montreal for slow response time

RAW: Plateau driver tries to escape slush


6 years agoVideo
A water main break in the Plateau had some residents struggling to free themselves of the ice and slush. 1:05

Projet Montréal Leader Luc Ferrandez says the delay in the Pie-IX Boulevard incident isn't an isolated case.

He points to another water main break in the Plateau Mont-Royal borough that covered a neighbourhood in ice on January 2015.

How Montreal's response to water main breaks stacks up

CBC Montreal's investigative team learned that, compared with Toronto, Ottawa and Laval, Montreal has additional layers of bureaucracy that can lead to additional hours of flooding and, ultimately, more damage.

It's also the only city of the four that doesn't staff a specialized crew to turn off the valves and repair larger pipes on Fridays.

On the island of Montreal, only seven of the 19 boroughs have both the equipment and training to close those valves.


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