City officials are unable to explain why 311 operators have been giving confusing messages about the frozen water line situation, but at least two residents are happy.
Laresa Sayles in Norwood Flats and Francis DeCorte in St. James were looking at a one- to three-week delay to get temporary water services to their homes -- until their plight was detailed in a Free Press online story Friday.
"I got a call from the city right after the story appeared," Sayles said, echoing the reaction DeCorte experienced.
Sayles and DeCorte were upset they were facing a long wait for a temporary water line, despite a pledge from Mayor Sam Katz the day before the service would be provided in 24 hours.
Both Sayles and DeCorte will be getting temporary water service later today via a hose connected to a neighbour's home.
"I'm just glad I won't be giving birth in a snowbank," Sayles, 33 weeks pregnant, said.
"I won't be facing daily trips to my Tim's to use their bathroom and then the community centre to shower," DeCorte said.
But both questioned why the city responded so quickly to their situation when there are more than 770 other properties without water services.
"What about the other 770 households?" Sayles said. "This is not just about us. This has become a crisis."
DeCorte said a firefighter brought him two jugs of water Friday afternoon and said he had just delivered water to a woman who'd been without water services for three weeks.
"This was just inconvenient for me, but how much longer does she have to wait?" DeCorte said.
Katz said he could not explain why 311 operators were telling residents as late as Friday morning requests for temporary water connections would be delayed anywhere from one to three weeks.
"Days and days should be what it takes to thaw the line, not to do (the temporary connection)," Katz said Friday afternoon, vowing to sort out the confusion at city hall.
"It was clearly a miscommunication" with the 311 operators, Steve West, the city's manager of corporate communications said.
West said there was no queue-jumping for DeCorte and Sayles, adding the city's commitment is to provide temporary water service within 24 hours, and that is what has occurred.
Meanwhile, city officials said the number of properties without water services because of frozen water lines had climbed to 778 -- an additional 56 homes from Thursday, and 240 additional properties this week.
Firefighters began delivering potable water in 20-litre jugs to some of those homes Friday.
City officials said firefighters are doing the deliveries during their down time between emergency calls.
"Firefighters help the public, and this is just part of doing that," Alex Forrest, president of the firefighters' union, said. "These jugs weight 50 pounds each, and you can't expect seniors to handle that."
It's expected more than 200 jugs would be delivered by firefighters by the end of Friday.
Forrest said he's been told the cold weather has been impacting fire hydrants, adding more seem to be frozen this winter than in previous years.
"We had frozen hydrants at two fires Thursday night and again earlier in the week," Forrest said. "I've never heard of that happening in the 25 years I've been firefighting -- normally it's just one frozen hydrant every month."
Chamber of Commerce president Dave Angus said he's concerned the situation is impacting the business community.
"Right now, it appears to be affecting only an isolated number of businesses, but even for them, this is a problem," Angus said. "We can't overlook the financial challenge this kind of situation places on business, especially small business."
-- with files from Kevin Rollason