New Brunswick

Council to wait on study results before acting on west Saint John water leaks

Saint John councillors agreed to give the municipal water department time to study a surge of leaky pipes inside homes along the city's west side.

West side residents report of leaking pipes just months after a new water system turned on

There has been a rash of complaints of leaking pipes inside the homes of people in west Saint John since a new water system was turned on in September. (CBC)

Saint John councillors agreed to give the municipal water department time to study a surge of leaky pipes inside homes along the city's west side.

The leaking pipes are leading to plumbing and carpentry bills for building owners.

City officials admit they have been caught off guard by the problem, coming just a few months after a new water system was brought on line in September.

Brent McGovern, a Saint John water commissioner, says the problem is not caused by the system's switch from soft lake water, to hard well water.

He said the new water source exceeds federal and provincial standards.

"There's no instance that industry experts are aware of where hardness has resulted in leakage," said McGovern. "Pipe leakage is something separate that we're working to understand."

Testing the copper piping

McGovern said CBCL Engineering is already working on the water system. The engineering consultant will cooperate with PhD students from Dalhousie University to test some of the copper piping that has failed.

The goal will be to determine if something in the new water source is contributing to the failure of the pipes.

"There could be a mode of treatment that may assist in reducing corrosion or pitting of copper if that is indeed the case with our water. That's something we'll be studying," said McGovern.

We're not just changing the water in the bathtub here, this is a major system switch.- Coun. Greg Norton

He said with the use of students and a consultant already working on the water system, the cost of the study will be "minimal."

In the meantime, Coun. Greg Norton on the city's west side, questioned the water commissioner's assertion.

There have been 103 complaints from west side residents regarding all aspects of the new water system.

But Norton said official complaints to a city hotline would not include calls and emails to councillors and to city staff in other departments.

Coun. Greg Norton in Saint John, questions why the public was not warned of the danger that water pipes might begin to leak after the new system was turned on. (Twitter)

He asked that all the complaints be forwarded to one place for better accounting.

He also questioned why the public was not warned of the danger that water pipes might begin to leak after the new system was turned on.

"We're not just changing the water in the bathtub here, this is a major system switch," said Norton.

"Why could we not have provided them with that courtesy that there was a low risk — no matter how low — that it was possible?"

Saint John Water is urging west side residents who have found problems with leaking water pipes to phone: 658-4455 or email: waterandsewerage@saintjohn.ca.