More than 350,000 people and numerous industries in Southwestern Ontario all rely for water on the 48-inch diametre Lake Huron pipeline which ruptured about 2 a.m. Monday morning. The break is near the community of Mount Carmel in Huron County.
The aging pipeline runs 48 kilometres from an intake in Lake Huron north of Grand Bend to serve London and other communities. A major break, it may be as long as 36 hours before service is restored. Fortunately for London, the city is also served by a Lake Erie pipeline. The flow from this alternate pipeline has been temporarily increased.
The London Free Press reports water gushing from the pipeline break has formed about a five-acre lake in a farmer's field near Mount Carmel and is flowing across Blackbush Line road north of Mount Carmel. Work crews are on site.
Rick Grenier, a City of London supervisor on the scene, figures as much as three metres of soil may have to be excavated in order to reach the break and repair the pipeline. If only a single section has ruptured, repairs could be completed within hours but before the line is back in full service it must first be disinfected.
Barbara Leavitt, spokesperson for the Huron County board of health, said some communities, such as Ailsa Craig and some areas north of Parkhill, are suffering extremely low pressure, with some reporting no water at all. Parkhill has about four or five hours of water left in its reservoir, while Ailsa Craig’s water is shut down entirely. Strathroy has a 50-hour supply of water in its reservoir, said Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Mel Veale.
A precautionary boil-water advisory is in force for communities from Grand Bend to Crediton. The Middlesex-London Health Unit has issued a boil-water advisory for Denfield in its jurisdiction. Leavitt said the warning was issued because of the low water pressure and was not based on contaminated water samples.
Middlesex Centre Mayor Al Edmondson said cases of bottled water were being distributed by municipal officials to the approximately 70 households affected in Denfield. The small community north of London is located at a high point in the water line and the water supply has dried up completely.
To maintain adequate water levels in area reservoirs, consumers are being asked to voluntarily limit or curtail their water use by refraining from using dishwashers and clothes washers, taking short showers instead of full baths or even postponing showing or bathing.
It sounds gross but consumers are also being asked to reduce toilet flushing, possibly only flushing after every second use. Industrial or commercial establishments should suspend all unnecessary uses of water, such as washing operations at construction sites.
Four schools in Middlesex County are closed because of low water pressure: McGillivray, East Williams, Parkhill West Williams and North Middlesex High School.
North Middlesex Mayor Mayor Wes Hodgson pointed out a lot of livestock and poultry farms in North Middlesex are hooked into the water system and are now without water. When one considers one head of cattle can drink as much as 20 gallons (90 litres) per day, one can grasp the scale of the problem facing those with hundreds of head of cattle. It is has been suggested that farms with tanker trucks drive to Grand Bend for clean water.
Andrew Henry, who is in charge of managing the Lake Huron water supply, thought high water pressure and the four decade plus age of the pipeline could be factors in the break. It has been 22 years since the last break in the pipeline.
There has been talk of twinning the line for years and but so far it has been just talk.