Soil contamination emerges as issue with over-budget watermain work

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There appears to be no end in sight to the pain arising from failing water infrastructure in Port Rowan and surrounding area.

Norfolk council has learned that the $2.8-million repair will actually cost more than $4 million. With contaminated soil in the mix, there is no telling how expensive the problem might be.

Council heard on June 9 that the low bid ($3.9 million) for the repair work was filed by J-AAR Excavating Ltd. of London. The mains are located at assorted locations in Port Rowan.

Also failing is the water main piping treated water from Port Rowan to St. Williams and Booth’s Harbour.

At the council meeting, staff said 28 firms retrieved bid documents but only two submitted tenders.

Jason Godby, Norfolk’s interim general manager of public works, said the cost has gone up, in part, because the scope of the work has changed. This includes installing a bigger main between Port Rowan and St. Williams to address water pressure complaints in the latter.


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As well, Godby said environmental standards today require Norfolk to clean up contaminated soil in the road bed arising from tar and asphalt leachate.

Problems in the Port Rowan area arose in 2017 when iron water mains installed in 1991 began to fail. The pipes were expected to last 75 years but have been found, in places, to have deteriorated.

The problem came to light when a main failure came within half an hour of draining the Port Rowan water tower. Had that happened, the town would have been left without tap water and hydrant protection. Water pressure also would have disappeared in St. Williams and Booth’s Harbour.

Norfolk public works has since determined that the mains are failing, in part, because they are buried in acidic soil. Council heard last year that the pipes should have been buried in new soil with a neutral pH.

Godby told council on June 9 the plan is to replace the failing mains with pipes made of polyvinyl chloride plastic. Godby said PVC pipe is impervious to acidity and should provide at least 75 years of service.

Due for replacement are mains with an estimated length of seven kilometres. Along with the water main between Port Rowan and St. Williams, work will be conducted in the following neighbourhoods in town:

  • Front Road from College Avenue to Ellis Street.
  • Bay Street from Ellis Street to Church Street.
  • Wolven Street from Erie Avenue to East Quarter Line Road.
  • Front Road from East Quarter Line Road to a point 1.2 kilometres east.

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