Properties' water out the spout during drought

Algonquin Road resident Terri Lewis beside water that pooled after a North Cowichan main sprung a leak Saturday  amid a valley-wide drought. The leak wasn
Algonquin Road resident Terri Lewis beside water that pooled after a North Cowichan main sprung a leak Saturday amid a valley-wide drought. The leak wasn't fixed until Wednesday, after crews fixed a reservoir communications line.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

With water seen as liquid gold during Cowichan's severe drought, some folks on The Properties' Algonquin Road are wondering why response was seemingly slow to fix a broken underground water main.

The News Leader Pictorial received a tip Tuesday that water was still flowing despite the fact the leak had been reported on Saturday, and North Cowichan has been cracking down on water wasters.

Algonquin resident Terri Lewis wasn't the tipster, but when a reporter approached her on site, she said she shared similar concerns.

"What if we had a fire? We wouldn't have had any water," she said. "They (public works) should have been here Monday morning; I'm surprised it wasn't fixed Monday."

North Cowichan's engineering and operations' manager Iain Bell had an answer.

Bell confirmed operations became aware of the Algonquin leak late Sunday afternoon but priority was given to repairs to a second failure between the pumping station and The Properties' reservoir.

"This work took priority as this communication line is the linkage between the pump station and The Properties' reservoir. Without it, the whole of The Properties may have run out of water, including volume for fire protection," he wrote in an email.

"The communication-line failure was repaired today (Tuesday), and excavation of up to three metres in depth and over a distance of 10 metres was backfilled. Utilities crews were in position to repair the leak in question and will begin tomorrow (Wednesday) morning with this repair."

The Algonquin leak took a back seat.

"The leak was investigated, determined to be minor in nature, and found not to be damaging any municipal infrastructure," writes Bell, "nor was anyone out of water. As per our internal policy, we did not dispatch a crew on overtime to deal with this, bearing in mind the cost to the taxpayer."

Also, the utilities crew and electricians had been dealing with a communication-line failure for the past three days, Bell notes, unknowingly fueling Lewis' fears.

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