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Major water break leaves Snow Lake on boil water advisory

It appears that community water problems aren’t exclusive to Swan River.
A collage of photos showing the excavators at work, a golf ball-sized hole in the section of water m
A collage of photos showing the excavators at work, a golf ball-sized hole in the section of water main that was replaced, and an inside shot of the same piece.

It appears that community water problems aren’t exclusive to Swan River. Although, at the time of this writing, that central Manitoba town was faced with a loss of water throughout the entire community; five hours to the north, Snow Lake was recovering from a major water break that closed the school, uptown businesses, the community daycare and put the majority of the town on a boil water advisory.

Around suppertime on Jan. 24, people in the Snow Lake became aware of the problem through shared posts on a Facebook community bulletin board. Many noted that they had little or no water pressure and by 10 p.m. that evening the town’s chief administrative officer Ross Gilmore confirmed that a water main had “ruptured” near the community’s Joseph H. Kerr School. He noted that they would attempt to keep the water system charged and flowing to all neighbourhoods; however, the school, Wilfred T. Lipton Arena, Gordon M. Rupp Curling Rink, several businesses and the Brentwood Subdivision were reporting pressure that varied from low to none at all. Further to this, the town had applied for a dig permit and excavation of the line would begin as soon as it was received.

Ordinarily, when an underground water line breaks or leaks, water surfaces in a ditch or on the roadway giving workers some indication of where to dig. However, not so in this case; water never did surface. Snow Lake’s town foreman Andrew Smith advised in a further posting that the water main along the street in front of the school was installed directly over top the sewer main. “The sewer main is in very poor condition allowing water from the broken water main to flow directly into the sewer system and not showing itself on the surface of the roadway,” said Smith.

Due to depressurization of the waterline, a boil water advisory was issued by the province on the morning of Jan. 25. Following this, traffic was rerouted and town employees, supplemented by several contract workers, began the arduous task of locating and fixing the break. Working around the clock, they were able to determine the general area of the problem, but had trouble pinpointing the exact location. Using two excavators, one equipped with a ripper tooth to break through the frozen overburden, work continued until the leak was located. “With over eight feet of frost and our water mains buried 10-feet, six inches below the surface, it made excavating the roadway extremely difficult and slow,” Smith added. “We located the break late Saturday morning (Jan. 27) and made the necessary repairs within a few hours.” Cleanup lasted into Saturday evening, with the affected streets reopening to traffic by 8 p.m. that night.

By employing a temporary shunt between fire hydrants during the dig, workers were able to supply water at limited pressure to the Brentwood subdivision; certainly this helped prevent freezing of residential lines in the -30 Celsius temperatures.  

Workers no sooner had the hoses rolled up, their equipment put away, and their feet up when they received another call to the community’s Sunset Bay Subdivision. Water had surfaced on the road on the corner of Lipsey Drive and McGilvray Avenue and the search for that leak began in haste. The vicinity of the leak had been located by Monday afternoon, but the leak had yet to be pinpointed. The boil water advisory remains in effect until testing proves it potable.