City may seek financial assistance from Province for frozen pipes

Guelph, ON, May 4, 2015—The City is seeking Council’s approval to request funding from the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program after frozen underground pipes affected water service to 376 customers in Guelph. Staff will bring the request to Council at its meeting May 11 .

This winter’s frozen pipe emergency was the largest since 1993 when almost 400 customers were affected. In 2014, 85 customers were affected by frozen pipes.

“This event was unprecedented—not only the number of people affected, but the speed at which the reports came in,” said Peter Busatto, Water Services plant manager. “After the cold snap on the Family Day long weekend, we had an influx of calls and were quickly thrown into an emergency response to ensure people had access to water.”

The City responded with immediate relief through the frozen water assistance program which provided bottled water for drinking and cooking, and access to showers and laundry facilities. The next step was to get affected customers connected to temporary service lines as quickly as possible. Continued cold weather delayed these efforts—some temporary lines froze within minutes of being connected—but by mid-March, almost all affected customers had water for showers and toilet flushing.

Response costs expected to be more than $640,000

The City is estimating total response costs—including watermain breaks—at $641,014. Costs include labour and overtime costs ($207,575), equipment including hoses for temporary lines ($14,440), and goods and services including the costs of the frozen water assistance program, contracted support of plumbers, and rentals of specialized digging and thawing equipment ($419,000).

“Guelph wasn’t alone in experiencing unusually high numbers of frozen pipes, and like other communities, is now managing the financial result of response efforts,” said Busatto. “We continue to follow reports from other cities in Ontario that were affected by February’s record-breaking low temperatures. Much like the major ice storm in December 2013, this weather–related issue has put many municipalities under financial strain.”

City staff will adjust work plans and reallocate funds to ease overall budget impacts. Reserve funding will also be used to help cover frozen pipe response costs as needed. Provincial support would maintain reserve funds which are used to protect against high rate increases.

Water service has returned to normal

All pipes have thawed and regular water service has been restored throughout the city. About 10 customers continue to access water through temporary lines due to leaking household pipes. Once pipes are repaired, the remaining temporary lines will be removed. The City will look at programs and policies to help prevent and respond to frozen pipes next winter, including an expansion of its freeze prevention program which protected over 140 customers from frozen pipes this year.

“We were amazed at how resilient our community was during this issue,” remarked Busatto. “Not only did neighbours, friends and family step up to help those who were affected, but even those affected helped others. In my many years with Water Services I don’t recall ever seeing such great community spirit before—we’re so grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding.”

For more information

Peter Busatto, Plant Manager
Water Services
519-822-1260 extension 2165