Canada

The streets of broken mains

Peter Carlyle-Gordge July 9 1979
Canada

The streets of broken mains

Peter Carlyle-Gordge July 9 1979

The streets of broken mains

Canada

Winnipeg

Most Winnipeg residents were spared this spring’s visitation by the flooding Red River, but that’s little consolation to city homeowners now being swamped out by a different water monster which lurks below. The new menace is corroding cast-iron water mains laid in the 1950s and ’60s and now erupting in geysers which sweep away lawns and silt up driveways.

The city sieve (1,784 breaks were repaired last year at an average cost of $1,100 each) is no joke to Tom and Shirley Pollard, who have a $60,000 house on a 135-foot lot. “It’s not funny when you watch your lawn floating down the street,” says Shirley Pollard. City work crews had no sooner bandaged a leak

last week at the Pollards’ place than two more gushers appeared. The most galling part is to watch city crews dig up their lawn to get at the leaks—then afterward “they just tamp the mud with a machine, throw on weed-infested earth and go away,” says Shirley Pollard, surveying a six-foot crater where her lawn used to grow.

Len Andree, 49, has counted between 14 and 16 water-main breaks during the past two years on his St. Boniface street. “It’s obvious the pipe is of rotten quality,” says Andree. “The repair crew has been around so often one worker told me he thought he should buy a house here to be closer to work.” He’s furious about the mess, so much so that last month he took a swing at the first city official to show up to survey the damage.

Rod McRae, Winnipeg’s director of operations, says the piping met specifications when it was laid but “you learn from hindsight. Remember that Ford didn’t build a Thunderbird first, but a Model T.” The cast-iron jobs are being replaced in some areas with plastic and asbestos-cement pipes. However, the repair work isn’t going quickly enough to suit Andree. “I’m paying $2,500 a year in taxes and they’re putting in papier-mâché pipes,” he fumes. “Someone ought to lose his job over this.”

Peter Carlyle-Gordge