Montreal blames mechanical error for boil-water woes
Published Thursday, June 6, 2013 2:15PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 6, 2013 6:42PM EDT
The city of Montreal says a mechanical error is responsible for the problem that forced 1.3 million people to boil their water for 36 hours last month.
The Atwater filtration plant, the largest in the province has been undergoing renovations for several months and on May 22 the water level in one reservoir got very low, stirring up sediment.
Workers noticed fairly quickly that the water level had dropped and refilled the reservoir, but not before the damage was done.
At the time the public works department blamed human error, but following two weeks of analysis Chantal Morissette, the director of Water Services, says a pump that should have turned off did not function as it should.
"Electrically we don't know why this last protection didn't work. We know for a fact that it didn't work," said Morissette.
The water services department is now figuring out exactly how to continue the needed renovation work without causing another water crisis. Those renovations are certain to include a close inspection of the faulty pump.
"These pumps are about 60 years old," said Morissette.
When the pump failed crews were lowering the water level in order to get access to a membrane that needs to be replaced. Until the faulty pump is fixed, or a workaround is developed, the renovations have been put on hold.
Mayor Michael Applebaum said it is crucial that nothing like the boil-water advisory happen again.
"The water department has also assured me that it will boost monitoring on nights and also weekends. The department will also, furthermore step up training for workers and managers," said Applebaum.
Another complaint from the public, in addition to the need to boil water, was the lack of communication from the city.
It was only after residents of Verdun and St. Henri complained about muddy water that the city began issuing boil-water advisories which eventually expanded to include more than half of the island of Montreal and one off-island city as the full extent of the interconnectedness of the water system became known.
Applebaum said the city is examining ways to improve communications in urgent matters.