Cast Iron Replacement Rates Draw Two Different Pictures

A long time resident complaint came up at Monday evening's meeting of Moose Jaw City Council as willwemakeit appeared during the quarterly reports.

During the review of the quarterly reports Councillor Brian Swanson asked whether the number of water main breaks so far this year - from January 1st to June 30th at 58 compared to 47 during the same period in 2018 – was a fair statement it put the City in track for a record number of breaks this year.

“Given the current number of breaks that would be a fair statement,” director of Engineering Services Josh Mickelborough responded.


Councillor Swanson then pointed out if it occurs the last three years would be the highest number of annual water main breaks in the City's history.

He went on to state the current annual rate of cast iron water main replacement was not meeting targets if the project was going to meet its 20 year deadline. To do so would mean a change in priorities.

“The thing of concern to me this is only going to do 2200 meters…The math is pretty simple we need to do 4000 meters a year and realistically we are looking at a 35 year program,” Councillor Swanson said, adding “Our job is pretty clean cut we have to fix the water distribution system in our city and we aren't…we are continuing to be all things to all people.”

In 2019 the cast iron water main replacement program is scheduled to replace 1600 meters of cast iron and reline 600 meters of existing line for a total of 2200 meters.

Councillor Swanson also pointed out escalating costs over just four years of the program as a cause for concern. The cost per meter replaced has risen from $1800 per meter to 2200 per meter in 2019. The increase in four years is 33 percent, he said.

“I don't buy arguments if we get City crews or in-house engineering….we are going to reduce costs…we have got to get our priorities fixed.”

However in their opportunity to point out what is improving Administration painted a not so dire picture.

City Manager Jim Puffalt pointed out additional funding from Federal and Provincial governments was helping make progress and ease the pressure.

Puffalt pointed to additional gas tax funding of $1.67 million going to replace infrastructure - $1.17 million to feeder mains and $500,000 to cast iron replacement. There will also be transit funding of $8 million in 2020 forthcoming which will help, he said.

Mickelborough stated the number of breaks might be large the situation was improving on other fronts

“Breaks are problematic,” he said, adding “the breaks per block came down considerably…from 12 to 13 per block to eight to nine per block.”

“It is five to seven years we are predicting until we turn the corner…right now we are predicting five years out until we turn the corner.”

Turn the corner refers to when a sufficient amount of cast iron water mains is replaced and the amount spent on repairs drops.

Hypothetically money previously allocated to repairs could be re-directed to replacement increasing the amount of water mains replaced but the decision to do so woukd be up to the Council of the day.

Inflationary pressures are also being closely monitored Mickelborough stated.

“In the next year or two we will start to talk about inflationary pressure on cast iron but we hope to offset that with other outside (investment.”

Puffalt also stated being five years out until the corner is turned is what other municipalities are facing.

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