The Weather Network – Prince Rupert declares local state of emergency over water main breaks

The Weather Network – Prince Rupert declares local state of emergency over water main breaks

Prince Rupert declared a local state of emergency Saturday, as city officials said in a new release that there were three breaks in local water mains and multiple service interruptions that started early that morning.

Herb Pond, the city’s mayor, says six of the city’s major water pipes have burst in the past week.

“We have a very old water system,” he said in an interview. “Much of the pipes are well over 100 years old.”

Pond says the ground in the area is mostly rock and muskeg with very little soil,causing the pipes to shift and be more susceptible to damage, especially as they get older.

“It seems to be worse when the temperature drops,” he said “We declared a state of emergency so that if we need help, it’s already lined up.”

The city has a contractor on standby and declaring a local state of emergency means the province can be at the ready with an emergency management plan.

Pond says the emergency status could also allow Prince Rupert to receive provincial and federal funding in the event of extreme damage requiring costly repairs.

He says the situation is under control for now but the water system is extremely fragile.

“Crews are working overtime like crazy,” he said. “We’re right at the edge of being able to keep up.”

The Weather Network – Prince Rupert declares local state of emergency over water main breaks

Water pours down a Prince Rupert street at the site of one of three water main breaks on Saturday. (City of Prince Rupert)

Prince Rupert declared a local state of emergency Saturday, as city officials said in a new release that there were three breaks in local water mains and multiple service interruptions that started early that morning.

Herb Pond, the city’s mayor, says six of the city’s major water pipes have burst in the past week.

“We have a very old water system,” he said in an interview. “Much of the pipes are well over 100 years old.”

Pond says the ground in the area is mostly rock and muskeg with very little soil,causing the pipes to shift and be more susceptible to damage, especially as they get older.

“It seems to be worse when the temperature drops,” he said “We declared a state of emergency so that if we need help, it’s already lined up.”

The city has a contractor on standby and declaring a local state of emergency means the province can be at the ready with an emergency management plan.

Pond says the emergency status could also allow Prince Rupert to receive provincial and federal funding in the event of extreme damage requiring costly repairs.

He says the situation is under control for now but the water system is extremely fragile.

“Crews are working overtime like crazy,” he said. “We’re right at the edge of being able to keep up.”

Struggling to maintain, repair and modernize

Pond says repairs to roads and highways following burst pipes have cost the municipality millions of dollars.

Residents have also had to boil water on multiple occasions over the past few years, with some advisories lasting months.

Pond says Prince Rupert has struggled to come up with the money needed to maintain, repair and modernize its infrastructure since the late 90s, when some industries left the city and its population dwindled.

“The pulp mill went down, a number of fish plants closed,” he said. “We lost a tremendous amount of tax base all at once.”

Pond says the province has been helpful and understanding but it’s challenging to support one of Canada’s largest ports with a population of just 12,000.

He says the city has been holding ongoing discussions with the B.C. and federal governments on how to upgrade its aging infrastructure.

The province did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the meantime, Prince Rupert is asking residents not to panic but to be prepared for the water system to go down.

It was –7 C in Prince Rupert Sunday afternoon as Environment Canada issued an Arctic outflow warning earlier in the day. Forecasters say strong winds will combine with bitterly cold temperatures for wind chill values between –20 and –25 throughout the next week.

The city says residents should fill containers of water for drinking and homeowners should leave their taps partially running to prevent pipes from freezing.

This article was written for the CBC.

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