Water main break not to blame for flooding of Princess Street businesses

Kingston Fire and Rescue workers responding to the flooding of businesses on Princess Street on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. Photo via Lindsey Foster.

The flooding of a handful of businesses on the north side of Princess Street was not caused by any issues with city water mains, according to Utilities Kingston.

In fact, the issue had nothing to do with the City of Kingston or Utilities Kingston whatsoever, Utilities Kingston president and CEO Jim Keech explained.

The fast-flowing water began to flood the basements of the building on Princess Street just above Barrie Street at about 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. By 11:30 a.m., water could be seen gushing out of the businesses and into the street. While the rate at which the water was flowing – and the fact that the flooding occurred in an area recently under construction for the Big Dig 4 – led many to believe a water main had burst, that was not the case.

“It was the [water] service [line] to the building that was newly installed… a cap that was on the end of the service that somehow came off and resulted in water going into the basement of one of the businesses, and then flooding the other ones,” said Keech, who admitted that even Utilities Kingston workers thought it was a burst water main due to the excessive amounts of water involved.

“Actually, it’s a private piece of infrastructure, it had nothing to do with our water mains… I can’t say it had nothing to do with the big Dig, but it really had nothing to do with the Big Dig as far as it’s being perceived.”

Keech explained that, during each section of the Big Dig, local building owners and residents are invited to attend meetings about the projects prior to work beginning (normally about a year in advance). At those meetings, building owners whose properties abut Big Dig projects are encouraged to install any upgrades to water service lines they may need or want in the future.

“We don’t want a group to be going back in and cutting Princess Street or the sidewalk after the project is done,” Keech explained.

“So we will stress to them… ‘If you’ve got a building and you’re thinking of upgrading it, or maybe demolishing part of it and rebuilding or whatnot, make sure you install the proper size services for the future, not just for today.’ And a lot of people do that.”

This is precisely what occurred with the building that houses the businesses that were flooded on Saturday, Aug. 4. The owner of that building chose to upgrade to a six-inch wide water service line during the course of the Big Dig 4, Keech said, and the contractor for the Big Dig, Len Corcoran Excavating Ltd., was responsible for installing that upgrade.

Because the six-inch wide water service line isn’t necessary at this point, the building owner had the service line capped, and hired a plumber to connect the existing service lines to the new service line, Keech said.

“It’s all straight and simple, it happens 100s of times. Nothing really out of the ordinary… On Saturday, for some reason, and I have no idea why, the cap at the end of the service failed,” he said.

What happened next was completely in line with the protocols in place, Keech explained. A call was placed to the Utilities Kingston on-call answering service, which forwarded the call to the contractor (Corcoran).

“The way it’s set for projects like this, the call goes to the contractor as opposed to us, because it’s their responsibility,” he said.

“My understanding is the contractor was on site [in] half an hour to 45 minutes and had the water shut off fairly shortly after that.”

Kingston Utilities did dispatch workers to the area, but simply to investigate and ensure there was not a water main break, and to offer help if and where they could, Keech said.

And while Keech said it’s really too bad that the incident occurred, he feels the issues were handled as best as they could have been.

“From our stance, or from looking at this from a little bit of a distance, I think that they handled it quite appropriately,” Keech expressed, noting that the contractor was on site doing a fair bit of clean-up work over the weekend.

“It’s too bad it happened, but I think as far as the actual Big Dig project itself, there’s no delay or no significant repairs that are going to have to take place.”

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