Nfld. & Labrador

Pressure needs to drop, C.B.S. resident says of water problems

A C.B.S. resident says he's one of many households dealing with water pressure issues as the town has tackled several water disruptions it's attributed to recent weather.

At least 7 disruptions to town's water service in the last 4 weeks

The Town of Conception Bay South says extreme temperature fluctuations in the winter and spring are a major cause of its recent water disruptions. (Hampton Building Systems)

One resident of the Town of Conception Bay South says there's something wonky going on with the water pressure as he's one of many households battling problems lately. 

"Obviously there's a surge in pressure creating this issue somewhere," says Bill Cole, who lives in the Kelligrews area. 

"It's creating a lot of headaches."

The town says recent water disruptions have been caused by weather, from the extreme temperature fluctuations to significant rainfalls. 

According to advisories issued by the town, there were water main breaks on April 25, 28 and 30, planned repairs on May 13, and further disruptions due to emergency repairs on May 19, 21 and 22. 

People in the community have been told to check all private plumbing, like pressure relief valves, as there may be pressure fluctuations and minor water discolouration. 

Mayor Terry French said the town is investigating the problem.

"I'm continuing to ask questions and this coming weekend we have an outside third party [coming]. We've had our staff working 15-, 16-hour days, unfortunately, for the last week. I have to take my hat off to them." 

Too much pressure

Pressure-relief valves appear to be the problem, according to Cole. He said his blew out, and although it's 10 years old, it had been working fine. 

Cole said town employees visited his house Friday morning and determined the water pressure going in was much higher than it should be. 

Mayor Terry French said upon shutting down the town's water system, a trickle effect caused more leaks. (CBC)

"I'm on the hook now for a pressure reducing valve," he said, as the town only covers issues up to the curb. But Cole will look for compensation if a new valve doesn't work. 

Cole said the issues started a few weeks ago when crews were working on the pipes and there was a "moaning sound" when he flushed the toilet. 

After trying to fix that, he noticed water around his hot water heater. Its pressure valve "was tripping out because of excessive pressure." 

Cole now has the bathtub on a slow, cold dribble to help reduce the pressure, and said he's heard of a number of other residents experiencing similar problems lately. 

Plumbers busy in C.B.S.

Plumber Kirk Petten, of Petten's Plumbing, said he's getting several calls a day from people with water issues in C.B.S. for the last four weeks — and he's just one small company. 

Petten said most of the calls are about hot water heaters leaking, many of which are newer installs, considered a "very rare occurrence." 

Like Cole, he said the problem is too much water pressure — for homes and the town's infrastructure given the "excessive amount of water main breaks."

When asked what would cause the unusually high pressure, Petten said it's "a good question to ask the C.B.S. town council." 

Trickle down effect

A spokesperson for the town told CBC News on Friday the weather is to blame for the water issues, as extreme changes in temperature in the winter and spring are a leading cause of water disruptions. 

"As the ground freezes and thaws several times it can shift the earth and cause water mains to break," said Maggie Hynes.

"This can be enhanced with significant rainfall events" that make groundwater tables and subsurface flows higher, Hynes added.

Significant rainfall creating higher groundwater levels have contributed to recent water main breaks in the Town of Conception Bay South, a spokesperson says. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

On top of that, air in the pipes can be caused by several factors, including a leak in the pipe line.

Those air pockets "create rapid changing pressure fluctuations that may cause weak points in water mains to fail," Hynes continued. 

Disruptions caused by all of those factors can lead to multiple leaks at the same time, and depending on the system layout, one leak may not become obvious until another is repaired.

On May 19, crews isolated a "major break" in Upper Gullies along the primary water main for emergency repairs, which carried into the next day, said the mayor.

"From that, of course, we had to turn off the water supply, and this is one our main lines going through the whole town. It's very much a linear system versus a lot of communities have the ability to have a circular system to some degree which makes a difference in the engineering world," French said.

"When we shut down the system it seems like that that caused a trickle effect back through the system and all these other minor leaks started happening." 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Bailey White

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