July 24th, 2024

City to twin major water line, likely in next budget

By Collin Gallant on June 27, 2024.

The Kipling water main is shown on a map as provided by the City of Medicine Hat, which could twin the line in 2026, according to a budget proposal. For reference, Kin Coulee Park is shown in the bottom left, the city's municipal works yard in the top right and the city parks yard and administration building in the centre.--Supplied Image

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Water line work highlighted in Medicine Hat’s next proposed budget does not target “pre-stressed concrete” piping like the kind that failed in Calgary last month, but will create a failsafe to deliver water to one third of the city, according to city engineers.

The Kipling Street water transmission main runs across a portion of northern Kin Coulee park toward College Avenue in the Seven Persons Creek coulee, and supplies about 7,700 households in south Medicine Hat via the Kipling booster station.

A $6.3-million project included in the initial 2025-26 capital budget would see the line twinned to provide a secondary route to supply that station as well as install “inspection ports” on the original line, which was installed in 1972.

Sandra Plank, head of engineering at the city’s environmental utilities department, told the News that pipe is made from asbestos-strengthened concrete pipe, not the same material being studied in the Calgary break.

But that type of pipe is present and being scheduled for similar twinning projects in the long-term.

“We do have lines in Medicine Hat of the same nature and vintage as the line in Calgary,” said Plank. “We’re still waiting for the investigation in Calgary to determine the problem (there), whether it’s a specific problem.” The Kipling Street line was scheduled years ago to appear in the 2026 work plan, and preliminary design work has been completed to back up sections of “pre-stressed concrete” sections.

“We look at projects in terms of their role in the system,” said Plank. “We determine how, if something was to happen, how do we maintain supply to whole areas of the city.”

This month in Calgary, a failed section of pre-stressed concrete pipe on a main line led to citywide water restrictions as lengthy repairs are underway. That is wrapping up, but public attention is now focused on its presence in other centres.

Medicine Hat’s potable water system has about 6 kilometres of that type of concrete pipe delivering water — about 1.4 per cent of the 437-kilometre system — but the pipe is present at several critical points to deliver more water toward main points, like booster stations or branch lines.

The piping is typically larger diameter, and Plank said it is located in four sections that play a “significant” role in delivering water in Medicine Hat.

Design work has been done for potential twinning of those sections of pre-stressed concrete pipe the city installed in 1959, 1970, 1980 and 1984, though there is no immediate budget timetable for the work.

They would likely be twinned in similar fashion to the proposed Kipling Street project rather than replaced in order to provide a contingency for delivering water in case of breakages and increase the ability to monitor the older line, said Plank.

Engineering work is complete on the Kipling project, which was first listed in 10-year construction outlooks years ago as a project to move ahead in 2026.

The city budgets about $5 million per year in general water main replacement to update aging pipes, alongside similar amounts for sanitary sewer line work.

Most of the water system now consists of new standardized PVC pipe. Much smaller amounts of cast iron and steel are being removed in a staged program of oldest piping.

About 32 per cent is asbestos concrete – formed differently than pressed concrete which is wrapped in steel – and is considered much stronger.

A third-party water testing report done in 2023 reported there was no detectable amount of asbestos in Medicine Hat’s drinking water following a controversy in Regina about the presence of the carcinogen.

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