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City crews work through night to fix Port Alberni water supply, hope to finish today

Some homes without water since the pipe was severed in logging truck crash; restrictions in place
City of Port Alberni workers and contractors replace a section of the city’s main water supply pipe the morning of March 10, 2023. A logging truck left Franklin River Road the previous afternoon and crashed on top of the pipe, severing it and damaging approximately 10 metres of the waterpipe. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The City of Port Alberni expects to have its main water supply pipe fixed by “the end of the day” on Friday (March 10).

City crews and contractors worked through the night to replace approximately 10 metres of water pipe that was severed after an empty logging truck went over an embankment on Franklin River Road midday March 9. The driver escaped with minor injuries.

The city instituted Stage 3 water restrictions within hours of the incident in an effort to conserve water.

“We’ve asked members of the community to drastically reduce their water consumption to just anything that’s essential,” Mayor Sharie Minions said. “We’ve asked people to hold off on showers, running the dishwasher or washing dishes while we get this line repaired. It’s obviously a critical line of water into the community and we want to make sure we have enough time to repair it before water runs low.”

READ: Port Alberni under water restrictions after logging truck crash

Rob Dickinson, city director of engineering and public works, said the city already had most of the parts needed to replace the broken watermain; the rest of the parts came from Nanaimo and Courtenay public works departments.

Approximately 12 homes and businesses on Franklin River Road have been without water since the accident shortly after noon on March 9. Colin Murray, whose property is around a kilometre away from the site, is one of those residents.

Murray said he learned about the incident when the firetrucks and ambulances passed his driveway with lights and sirens flashing. A contact who lives closer to the scene sent him a text to alert him to the watermain break. “They told me to fill up everything I had with water because I was going to be out any minute, but it was too late.”

Murray improvised a water system for his property. “I put a siphon hose in the culvert coming across the road and plumbed it into my house,” he said.

The city lost approximately 5,000 cubic metres of water after the pipe was severed and before the emergency shutoff turned off the water.

Neither Minions nor Dickinson could provide an estimate of how much the repair is costing. “We’re just in the process of getting water back up and running and we’ll be reviewing (costs).”

Dickinson said the city reservoir “has about a day left of water. Normally we have about four days of water; unfortunately when this occurred we lost some of the water during that process.”

One day of reserve water “is adequate to maintain our services,” he added.

Minions said maintaining Stage 3 water restrictions will help keep the reservoir at an acceptable level.

The city does have a plan in place if the work cannot be completed on Friday. “We go to higher restrictions. We would make that determination in four to six hours,” Dickinson said.

“We have an alternative option that we will consider if we have to,” Minions said, which is pumping water from a pumping station on the Somass River into the city’s system.

“It’s not an ideal option, so it’s really important that members of the community conserve water,” she added. “But we won’t run out of water.”

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