Third break this month reduces traffic to one lane in both directions
The city completed repairs on Thursday's watermain break early Friday morning. Residents or businesses in the area who notice discoloured water are asked to run the water for several minutes until the sedimentation clears.
Watermain breaks continue to plague one of Greater Sudbury's busiest roadways.
On Thursday, The Kingsway was again reduced to one lane in each direction after a watermain break, this time near the Kingsway Hotel east of Cochrane Street. As of Thursday afternoon, crews were still on site and repairs weren't expected to be complete before Friday.
Thursday's problems come on the heels of two similar breaks on the roadway Dec. 4, which took more than a day to repair. And in September, traffic was reduced to one lane on The Kingsway for watermain repairs.
The Dec. 4 incidents took place just hours after city council approved a 4.6 per cent hike in water rates. The hike would have been 3.6 per cent, but members of the city's finance committee agreed to add an extra one per cent to try and narrow the large gap between what they should spend maintaining and replacing infrastructure, and what they actually spend.
Lorella Hayes, the city's chief financial officer, told councillors the city spends $33 million, when they should be spending $53 million. That means the city's aging underground pipes break more frequently and as the years pass, the breaks are more serious.
The accumulated deficit totals more than $700 million, a figure that reflects the frequent watermain breaks that plague all areas of the city. Just last month, a watermain break left residents in Naughton and Whitefish without water for more than a day.
In his presentation to the finance committee, Nick Benkovich, the director of water/wastewater services, said the system has been underfunded for so long, increases to try and catch up seem much larger than normal.
But if his department doesn't make a dent in the infrastructure deficit, he said more watermain breaks will occur, and the nature of those breaks will be more severe.
“Dealing with watermain breaks occupies a larger and larger piece of our operating budget,” Benkovich said. “When a break happens, it has to be dealt with immediately – and if it's a Sunday or the middle of the night, we incur extra costs.
“With the ever-increasing trend of watermain breaks, it's eating into our budget allocations and those costs must be integrated into our future budgets.”
About half of his department's $65 million budget is dedicated to capital work to prevent future problems, he said. And according to a plan approved by councillors in 2011, the city plans gradual spending hikes each year in the next decade to catch up on its capital spending deficit.
But to achieve that goal within a decade, annual increases would have to be about 7.4 per cent a year. At 4.6 per cent, Benkovich said his department will have an extra $600,000 to spend in 2014. The increase seems high, until you put it in perspective, he said.
“Most of our customers still pay less for water than they do for their cellphone or cable television service,” Benkovich said.