The Alexandria Water Plant is now back to normal operations, following a major water breach that occurred last week.

On Thursday, May 2 around 9 a.m., the raw water intake pipe for Alexandria water treatment plant was damaged when a contractor unknowingly severed the 14-inch pipe. Water flow was lost to the plant, but due to improved storage conditions, and operational adjustments, citizens continued to receive their water from the Alexandria Water Tower. At no point was water quality compromised.

Following the incident, residents were asked to conserve water while crews worked to resolve the situation. Less than 48 hours after the breach, repairs were fully completed and normal operations resumed at the Alexandria Water Plant.

The Township of North Glengarry’s Environmental Services Manager Dean McDonald credits training, planning and the hard work of everyone involved with getting the system back on line so quickly.

“Our emergency services protocols for the Water Works Department were updated in 2018. During tabletop exercises our staff prepared for a variety of emergency scenarios, working out ways in which we would mitigate the impact to residents, while preserving the quality of our water source and acting to institute repairs as quickly as possible. This training enabled our team to be better prepared for emergency situations like this one,” said McDonald.

Within three hours of the rupture, representatives from Atlas Dewatering were on scene with emergency pumps, and a temporary lines was installed in-order to re-establish raw water flow into the water treatment plant, so the plant could begin to produce water and replenish the Alexandria water tower.

“Atlas Dewatering acted with incredible speed. Last week pumps were in short supply because of the flooding going on in surrounding areas. Atlas Dewatering managed to accommodate us and to arrive as quickly as possible so that our residents continued to have access to safe, quality drinking water,” said McDonald. He explained that the importance of the pumps is that they enabled the township to continue to operate the Alexandria Water Plant and to ensure that more than 1,500 water connections, serving about 3,000 residents, continued to provide good water quality and quantity.

Alexandria residents use about 2,000 cubic metres of water each day. The Alexandria Water Tower maintains a supply of approximately 3,000 cubic metres of water. This represents a supply of between 24 and 30 hours of regular service. With the temporary pumps installed, the Alexandria Water System was able to operate at normal capacity, treating water at the plant and pumping it into the Alexandria water tower for storage and continuous supply to our residents.

The intake pipe was installed in Mill Pond in the early 1950’s.  At that time, it was not common practice to install emergency shut-off valves. This meant that we couldn’t simply turn off a valve to complete the repair, as you would in a normal repair job.  Divers from Dundee Marine were brought in to install a balloon plug, underwater, at the water intake pipe. This stopped the water from flowing into the damaged pipe area and the contractors were able to begin excavation and repair of the pipe. A crew from Drain All Ltd., helped locate the pipe, dewater the dig site and  flush to remove debris.  Raymond Theoret Excavation was used to excavate the site by carefully digging down to expose the broken pipe. The next step involved using the services of HydroCam to video inspect the affected area and to ensure no further damages or debris were observed.  Crews from Clarence MacDonald Excavation and the Water Works Department then installed the repair fittings and pipe. Once completed the divers then removed the balloon plug and by 10 p.m. on Friday the Alexandria water plant was back to normal operations.

“The Township has Emergency Protocol Procedures in place for situations like this. Following this incident our staff will review everything that happened, and we will discuss preventive actions to not only react to situations like this one, but to prevent future ones. I’m proud of all of the hard work done by our staff and by everyone who helped to restore the network,” said McDonald.