Broken pipes a fact of aging infrastructure, utilities official says

Kamloops: Kamloops Daily News, August 15, 2011.

Water utilities are faced with huge infrastructure renewal costs.

A broken water main that flooded a Brocklehurst home; a costly sewer leak that resulted in gravel getting into the pumps; both cases are examples of what can happen with an aging city infrastructure.

City utilities director David Duckworth said Monday the problems aren’t any different from any other year, although the sewer incident was expensive.

The typical water main can last 50 years; sewer up to 75.

“Infrastructure’s aging, there’s no question, but it’s not as old in a lot of other parts of the country, like Vancouver,” he said.

“When I worked in Vancouver, I dealt with mains 100 years old in downtown. And they’re still there.”

But breaks happen, and can’t be planned for. Kamloops spans an area of about 900 square kilometres, with pipes running underground.

Duckworth said the City’s maintenance program includes checking sewers with a camera and light that can help detect deposits of gravel, cracked pipes or pipes coming apart.

“You can find pipes that have come apart, and sewage is leaking into the ground. It helps determine which mains need to be repaired or replaced,” he said.

The City also keeps a map of water system leaks and repairs.

And for the last four years, when roads are replaced or repaired, City crews take a critical look at the water and sewer pipes below to see if they need replacement, he said.

“When we overlay a road, part of the design work is to deal with the pipes. We have a 10-year plan that identifies which roads we redo and when we redo them, it’s a good time to look at the underground infrastructure,” said Duckworth.

The cost of the July sewer collapse that resulted in some big expenses is still not finalized, he said.

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