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Council to be briefed on water woes

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Members of Winnipeg city council will be briefed this afternoon on the ever-worsening frozen water line situation.

But at least one councillor opposes the idea of moving some affected families into hotels.

"I’d rather keep doing everything we can to keep people in their homes," said Coun. Brian Mayes, chairman of protection and community services and a member of Mayor Katz’s executive policy committee.

"If we have to go to hotels, we have to but the best solution is try and get the water to people in their homes."

A council seminar is planned for 1:30 p.m. and media will be updated later.

While Coun. Paula Havixbeck has been calling for a special council meeting since late last week, Mayes (St. Vital) said he’s not aware one will be taking place any time soon.

Mayes said the city appears able to deal with the situation, adding suggestions that the Canadian military be brought in is an over-reaction.

"I don’t know the problem with the water is so acute we have to call in the department of national defence," he said. "We’re handling that with our resources.

"We’re doing the best we can with the resources we got and people are going around the clock.

"My preference is to avoid calling in the army and avoid putting people in hotels."

Mayes said a similar situation developed in the winter of 1978/79, where 3,000 properties experienced frozen water lines.

"Can we be charting towards," the winter of 1978/79, Mayes said. "The numbers are going to keep increasing. I want to know how bad it’s going to get."

Almost 900 properties have been left without water because of frozen water lines. Of those, the city has provided temporary water services to 173 properties by connecting hoses to a neighbouring property.

The city now believes another 5,000 properties are at risk of losing water services.

The situation has been blamed on the long, frigid winter, which has seen the frost penetrate deeper into the ground where the water lines are buried.

Even as the weather warms up, the frost remains in the ground and the situation is expected to last until May or June.

Meanwhile, acting fire chief Bill Clark said that firefighters not involved in firefighting were called in on overtime over the weekend to deliver notices to properties at risk of water lines freezing.

Clark said 40 uniformed personnel delivered over 3,900 notices in parts of River Heights, Fort Rouge, and the North End during five-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday.

Clark said those staff work Monday-Friday in fire prevention and regulation enforcement, adding he felt the situation warranted bringing them in to notify property owners.

"We took action to be able to ensure we notified the residents and properties at risk," Clark said this morning. "The goal was to do a blitz delivery of notices to get that message to them very quickly."

Clark said firefighters will not be involved in hooking up hoses to provide a temporary water supply to affected properties.

Clark downplayed concerns by the union that firefighters are being overworked, handling emergency calls and delivering 50-pound jugs of water to homes without water services.

"The Fire Paramedic Service and our response to the community has not been compromised," Clark said. "We have contingency plans in place."

Clark said the water deliveries are scheduled and handled by firefighters not involved in any calls.

"As the situation changes, we’ll re-adjust and alter our process as we need to, to ensure we’re remaining effective and not overloading any particular station or crews with work," Clark said.

Clark said firefighters on the weekend were able to deliver jugs of water to every home that requested it.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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