The District of Invermere (DOI)’s water system has been leaking for what could possibly be decades after a recent excavation uncovered an undocumented and uncapped T-junction in the water pipes below the intersection of 12th Avenue and 13th Street in Invermere.
“We don’t know exactly how long that had been there, or how long it has been leaking,” DOI Chief Administrative Officer Chris Prosser told The Valley Echo.
While further information is still being gathered, Prosser estimates that the four-inch pipe had been spewing approximately 12 litres per second into the surrounding soil for an unknown length of time, although the line in question was installed in the late 1970s.
When asked what kind of financial impact this could have had on the district over the years, Prosser was unwilling to hazard a guess.
“I wouldn’t even want to venture down that path,” Prosser said. “I don’t want to speculate on that.”
The district first suspected there was an issue with the pipes over the summer when, during fire flow testing, they found a problem in the area. It was initially speculated that the entire pipe had collapsed.
At the beginning of November, the district brought in advanced leak detection equipment to aid with ongoing work at Castlerock Estates, and decided to take the equipment to the problem area on 12th Avenue. After detecting a leak, the entire pipe was excavated, and after finding and fixing the source of the fire flow problem, they discovered the fully functioning, undocumented T-junction.
“Typically with water leaks you’ll get surface signs, roads will collapse or will be sinking, but there was none of that happening,” Prosser said, adding this was also the main reason why the leak wasn’t detected earlier. He explained that about 10 to 12 feet from where the water was pouring out, the water simply disappeared into the earth.
“There was no way we would have found it unless we did our investigation into why we weren’t getting fire flows at the top of the hill,” Prosser said.
Now that the T-junction has been removed and replaced with a new length of pipe, Prosser said district water usage during peak times has dropped from roughly 25 litres per second down to between 16 and 18 litres per second. The district is now planning on buying its own advanced leak detection equipment for about $3,000 to help detect potential problems in the future. It’s still not known why the T-junction was installed in the first place.
“It’s almost like they were trying to provide a service connection to something, but they never finished it off,” Prosser said.