By Mayor Steve Christie
As mayor, I’m part of a dedicated team at the City of Lacombe responsible for developing and maintaining our civic infrastructure network, including roadways, schools, sewage and waste disposal systems, to help keep our community livable, sustainable and viable well into the future.
Council recognizes the importance of a well-functioning municipal infrastructure system, as it allows for improved service delivery, and helps to promote economic development and job creation.
This past spring, City crews were dispatched to investigate and address a sewer backup on 50 Ave. caused by a blockage just west of 53 St. While the blockage was speedily cleared by staff, further investigation revealed a broken section of the main pipe wall. However, the line seemed to be flowing normally.
A follow-up inspection of that area the following day revealed another blockage further east, prompting staff to contract a sewer line camera company to conduct a detailed video inspection of the line.
The video revealed several integrity failures, sags, misalignments and even a location of nearly complete collapse. As a result, the Capital Works Program includes upgrades to water mains, new sidewalk and a new asphalt overlay on 49C Ave., all scheduled to coincide with the 50 Ave. infrastructure construction upgrades.
Recommendations on the replacement of the sanitary main at 49C Ave. were based on information gathered from the line inspection. We are also concerned about the pipe that runs along 50 Ave., which serves the southwest portion of the City. A failure of this pipe could cause a system surcharge, dramatically increasing the risk of sewer backup in affected homes.
Another area of concern is at the intersection at 52 Ave., as it requires immediate repair to ensure this critical artery of the municipal wastewater collection system remains operational. Administration recommends replacing the current 200mm wastewater pipes as early as 2017 with 300mm pipes to accommodate additional flows.
The most likely cause for the deteriorating pipe network is the material it is made of (vitrified clay tile) and the heavy cyclic loading. Although the clay tile is strong, it is also brittle and inflexible. High water volumes have shortened the life span of the material, and if left unaddressed, sections of the pipe could suddenly collapse, requiring emergency repairs.
Emergency repairs can happen at any time of the year and require specialized equipment, labour or materials. The costs are more difficult to control in the absence of planning, labour availability and other resources. The repairs can also be extremely disruptive to the community. The disruption time in this case is estimated at three to four weeks per block for sanitary sewer repair.
The impact to residents and affected businesses in Lacombe’s downtown core is one of the greatest costs of a downtown infrastructure upgrade program and I believe that it is critical that this impact be minimized by limiting the duration and frequency of this type of work.
With this in mind, council has directed staff to conduct further analysis of other infrastructure in the impacted area, including water and wastewater, roads, storm sewers, concrete sidewalk, curbs and gutters, as well as lighting fixtures.
Due to the cost and community disruption associated with this project, a high level of planning and consultation will be required. To that end, council has adopted the recommendation to complete this program in 2017, with planning and stakeholder consultations taking place in 2016.
I, along with other members of council, feel strongly that a proactive approach to this infrastructure upgrade project is more economical than simply waiting to react to an emergency.
I will continue to provide the citizens of Lacombe with new information on this infrastructure program as it is made available in the spirit of openness and transparency. And as always, I welcome your feedback on this and other topics of interest.
Steve Christie is the mayor of Lacombe.