|Work on civic water infrastructure in the Crestview area is just|
one of a growing list of trouble spots for City workers that
led to a Local State of Emergency in Prince Rupert today
As we outlined earlier this evening, the City of Prince Rupert has Declared a State of Local Emergency, the unusual step an indication of the serious of the situation was taken by City Council by way of a Special City Council Session called shortly after 4 PM on Saturday afternoon.
In the Sixteen minutes of discussion and decision making, the full contingent of six City Councillors and Mayor Herb Pond heard from City Manager Dr. Robert Buchan about the concerning situation that has evolved for the water supply system over the last 24 hours.
As well as to what could be even more challenging in the days to come as the temperatures drop, that with an Arctic Outflow Warning currently in place for the City,
Dr. Buchan provided for the background to the current challenges on the city's water infrastructure.
Approximately five years ago we were experiencing around five, maybe four water main breaks a year, and last year we had the most ever with twelve, to date as of today we are at 21.
In the last seven days we've had six water main breaks and a number of water service breaks, three of those six water main breaks occurred since 1:30 last night.
Today, we had over half of our public works crew out responding to the various water main breaks and water service breaks.
It's a significant cost, it's an extraordinary cost and more-over it requires a significant amount of effort and time from our crews and given the freezing temperatures and increasingly colder temperatures that are forecast during this next six days, the risk of additional breaks is significant and there is potential that there could be too many for our crews to handle.
So we think that we need to deal with bringing in additional resources and we are arranging those resources.
There may be a call for assistance from the province and frankly the State of Local Emergency can help us recover at the discretion of the province, some of the costs associated with these extraordinary expenses ... Given ... the challenges to the water system we have recommended that a local State of Emergency be declared" -- City Manager Rob Buchan
|City Manager Rob Buchan (far right of screen) carried the vast majority|
of Saturday's Special Council Session to put in place a Local State of Emergency
Mayor Herb Pond had a few follow up questions for the City Manager, asking for an explanation between the two elements of concern those of a water main and a water service break.
Speaking of the concern over the troubles for the water main service Dr. Buchan observed:
"The water service break is the direct service to each building, the water main. That's the main arteries of the water system, that's where the diameter of the pipe and the quantity of the flow is the greatest, you get a break in the main that's where you lose the most water.
And what's really critical when there's a break is that it's dealt with prior to the water reservoir running dry.
If a water reservoir were to run dry that would create additional significant complications" -- City Manager Rob Buchan
The City Manager then outlined what Council needed to consider on the evening towards informing the public of the situation.
Mayor Herb Pond noted of the call for a State of Local Emergency and how that may be received by the community.
"So the second question is, You know people hear State of Emergency you know it might cause some panic, how would you respond to that?"-- Mayor Herb Pond
Dr, Buchan observed on how the declaration is a way to prepare the community should the situation continue to escalate.
"I would say that right now crews have been and are responding to the breaks, this is very much about being prepared in the event that the deep cold temperatures that we're looking at further escalate the breaks, we want to be prepared for that.
So this is preparatory, this is making sure that we can keep our water system intact until such time as we can secure the funding that we very much need from the provincial and federal governments to do replacements of those sections of the system, you. know as quickly as we can" -- City Manager Rob Buchan
The Mayor observed as to the need to quickly call the meeting and had the City Manager outline the process required to hold such Short notice sessions.
In comments from Council towards the current situation, Councillor Randhawa asked whether there was any risk of people losing the water supply at this moment.
In reply the City Manager observed that the crews are responding and continue to respond to the breaks as they occur, noting of the need to be prepared for what could come in the week ahead.
"The reason for this declaration is that there is a risk and we want to make sure the we can bring in additional resources, in order to respond to make sure that we actually don't lose the water service.
This is our due diligence to the community in making sure that we can respond appropriately and effectively and try to secure some financial assistance after" -- City Manager Rob Buchan
Councillor Nick Adey spoke to the concerns over a potential panic and the need to coordinate with local grocery stores and other suppliers of bottled water.
"I don't want to do anything to accelerate any, you used the word panic, I don't want to accelerate any panic cause I'm note sure we're at that point yet.
But I can anticipate that people might reasonably conclude that it would be a good idea to get some bottled water on hand at home and so on.
During similar circumstances historically we've worked with the local grocery stores to see if there is a way to manage that in a way that was as least disruptive as possible, I'm just wondering if that's a part of this how might go" -- Councillor Nick Adey
The Mayor noted that it was a wonderful suggestion, noting that Dr Buchan was taking notes.
Mr. Pond also offered up some other suggestions for the public.
"Just on a purely practical level, I think it is wise that people you know put a pitcher of water in the fridge now or get some bottled water. Or you know do some things to be prepared.
But the other thing that people can do very practically which isn't directly related to this but we know it's going to be super cold temperatures, leave a tap somewhere running just a little bit and so that your pipes freezing don't become yet another reason for the City Crews to have to come and turn off the water, while your plumber does ... you know resources will be stretched, don't become part of the problem, I think I would say." -- Mayor Herb Pond
Councillor Cunningham took up the theme of the work ahead for City Workers, paying tribute to the work that they do on a daily basis and in particular towards what they will face in the days and possible weeks ahead.
"I just like to say on the other side of the coin, I would like to recognize that the crews are going to be working possibly through Christmas, you know the sacrifices that they are making, we see them out every day in the crappiest weather and that working.
But this brings it home that these City workers are going to be out there ... so I just like to point that out. That these guys don't get the recognition sometimes that they should because this is going to be a tough time of the year for them to have to go out to work, they've been out there since 1:30 this morning" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham
Councillor Adey also spoke to the challenges for the city workers and the need for assistance for the City work force.
"Clearly the issues are reaching a point were the city workers are close to the overwhelmed point, I would assume that where part of what we are trying to do here is figure out a way to make sure that we get then some help so we can meet the immediate needs" -- Councillor Nick Adey
The City Manager noted of the professional and capable job in response to date, but did note of his concerns for the week ahead.
"You can imagine that if this continues on, with many breaks every day for the next six days that the prospect of being overwhelmed would be very real. So that's why we're arranging for back up and that's the reason for the State of Local Emergency Declaration" -- City Manager Rob Buchan
Councillor Cunningham turned to the current financial issues facing the city that has the community in its current situation
"Just revert back to funding you know it's a multi facet statement, but in the end of the day it's we just don't have enough money to go around to do all of this and this is why were looking at different aspects of getting more money" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham
That made for the final comment to the discussion, with Councillors Niesh, Skelton-Morven and Forster not offering any thoughts to the situation up for review.
For the record the official declaration to put the community into a Local State of Emergency came at 4:21 PM with the vote of approval on the motion by City Council.
Mayor Pond then outlined the scope of the statement and the approach the city would take in addressing any upcoming concerns, as well as how they would be notifying the public.
Council discussed a few of the minute details related to releasing that information.
You can review the full sixteen minute session from the City's Video Archive below:
Note that the first three minutes are audio only owing to technical issues.
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