Utilities Kingston attributes sewer force main break to aging infrastructure

After a sewer force main break occurred last week near the corner of Days and Front Roads, Utilities Kingston said it has completed all necessary repairs. Photo via Utilities Kingston.

Following last week’s sewer force main break in Kingston’s west end, which forced residents to conserve water and reduce sewer use for several days, Utilities Kingston has officially completed repair work and has now provided an update to area residents as to the source of the break and its impact on surrounding infrastructure. 

According to a press release issued by Utilities Kingston, “Crews have repaired the sewer break, which was at a flange fitting on a large diameter, 36-inch force main, and the sewer is now operating under normal conditions.” 

Heather Roberts, Director of Water and Wastewater Operations with Utilities Kingston, said that the sewer break was attributed to the aging infrastructure at the site. “The area of the leak, that pipe is from 1972. And where the steel elbow is, at a fitting connecting the plastic part of the pipe, there [was] a leak.”

Roberts explained that Utilities Kingston remains mindful of the state of its infrastructure throughout the city and that such issues are an expected occurrence when dealing with equipment that is upwards of 50 years old in some places. 

“We’ve got water and wastewater linear infrastructure across the entire city, all different ages [and] conditions… Of course, we expect sewer force mains, or sewer gravity mains, or sewer local pipes [to] leak from time to time, or you’ll get a blowout on it because of the pressure in the pipe. So, you know, we have ways where we’re prepared to respond if that happens.”

Roberts said Utilities Kingston’s response protocols were executed in an effective and timely manner, with workers able to repair the break within days. 

“On Wednesday night when we had the report come in from a resident, we had staff dispatched to that area within an hour to review the site. From there, the operators would have called the overall responsible operator in charge, as well as their management team ,to discuss [their] observations. We were able to control the situation from there and put a plan in place to get an excavation started the next day.”

Roberts explained that the presence of telecommunications lines near the leak site made repairs more complicated. “One of the reasons it took so long for us to make the repair is because there is telecommunications infrastructure right above… We had to do the excavation very, very slowly to keep the integrity of that telecommunications infrastructure.”

Work to repair the break was completed on Saturday, Jun. 11, meaning residents had been asked to reduce regular sewage use for just over two days. Utilities Kingston thanked residents and local businesses for their conservation efforts. 

“The community’s efforts to conserve water and sewer use helped manage the environmental impacts of the sewer break,” said the utility provider in a press release. “While residents can return to normal water and sewer use, the utility company encourages the community to conserve the use of water in any circumstance.” 

Despite conservation pleas from Utilities Kingston throughout the event, Roberts pointed out that workers were able to keep wastewater flowing while completing repairs. “Even during the break, we were able to have normal operating conditions, meaning that all wastewater that was flowing to the Days Road pumping station was still coming through that force main.

“We were able to control the flow coming from the pumping station so that we had as minimal leakage as possible coming from there. And then we were using submersible pumps in the excavation and discharging the wastewater into the gravity main.” 

With the force main break now repaired, Utilities Kingston continues to monitor the situation and is evaluating ways to improve the existing infrastructure at the site, including nearby telecommunication lines. 

“[The break] is fixed, but we also need to be looking at redesigning that infrastructure… so that if we did suffer a leak again in that same area, we wouldn’t be up against the same [challenges]. Our response [in the future] might be quicker [if we did not] have to work around that telecommunication infrastructure,” said Roberts. 

“We will be taking that away from the situation that happened, and identifying how we might be able to design that location better, so that if we do have a break, we’re not dealing with the bad infrastructure [again].”

Considering the fact that repairs have only just been completed, Utilities Kingston continues to calculate the overall costs of the break and subsequent work, meaning officials were unable to provide a final figure as to how much the incident may have cost. 

As for the break’s impact on existing and future infrastructure projects, Roberts explained that the event was an isolated incident and is not connected to the City’s ongoing wastewater redirection work at Days Road. 

“That’s a separate project, where they are going to be redirecting sewage from Portsmouth pumping station to [Cataraqui] Bay,” explained Roberts. “This force main break that happened near the intersection at Days and Front, that sewage is coming from the Days Road pumping station. We are also building the new pumping station there… but the two things have nothing to do with each other.”

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