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Collaboration key to York’s feedermain upgrade

Two defective six-metre-long (6.5-foot-long) sections of a feedermain, which is the source of large portion of York Region’s water, were removed and replaced with watermain closure pieces earlier this spring.
June 26, 2015
By Dan O’Reilly

It was an operation which required close coordination among several government agencies, road detours, redirecting water distribution, closing off sections of the York-Peel Feedermain, and a significant effort by general contractor North Rock Group. It worked around the clock for five days - per each section - to complete the work.

At the heart of this project, however, is how the use of technology and a proactive approach by York Region led to the discovery and repair of these sections in the first place without a major service disruption, says Mike Rabeau, the region's director of capital planning and delivery.

The York-Peel Feedermain is a 25-kilometre-long, 1,800-millimetre transmission line which delivers surplus water from Peel Region to York Region, providing 35 per cent of its water. It starts at a pumping station on Airport Road and terminates at the Maple pumping station in York.

Although York has two water treatment plants on Lake Simcoe, receives water from Toronto, and has a significant amount of private wells, the feedermain is critical to that supply, says Rabeau.

"It's a major piece of infrastructure and doesn't have a twin (pipe)."

And that's why York Region decided to conduct a condition assessment of the entire feedermain after discovering and repairing a major leak on Rutherford Road near the Humber River a few years ago, he explains.

Undertaken in 2013 by Mississauga-based Pure Technologies, which used acoustic and electromagnetic surveys, the full-length assessment identified four sections of pipe which required repairs. Two of those sections were in York Region and two in Peel Region.

Minor to moderate leaks were the source of the problem on the York portion and they repaired in 2014. The "areas of higher concern" in Peel were distressed pipe segments in two different locations.

As the feedermain provides York Region with water, it took the lead role in planning and coordinating the project which was conducted over a two-week period this past March. "Water demand is lower then," said Rabeau, in an explanation of the timing.

York retained the MMM Group Ltd to design the repairs, although staff from two regions and the Ontario Clean Water Agency also provided significant contributions to the design and planning process and throughout the construction, he says.

The physical construction wasn't that complicated, says Rabeau, pointing out the largest challenge was taking the feedermain out of service.

In order to make the repairs, one kilomere-long sections of the pipe had to be fully isolated and drained. This, in effect, cut York off from its Peel Region water source.

To make up for that temporary loss, Toronto Water increased its production to York. A number of capacity tests were conducted in advance of the repairs, he says.

Other stakeholders including the City of Vaughan, the City of Brampton, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and the Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change were also involved in various aspects of the project.

For example, Brampton provided road occupancy permits and during one of the repairs diverted all eastbound traffic to a detour route to create a safe construction site, says Rabeau.