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Investing in underground municipal infrastructure shouldn’t be an afterthought

Stephanie Bellotto
Investing in underground municipal infrastructure shouldn’t be an afterthought

Have you ever heard of the saying, out of sight, out of mind?

That shouldn’t be the case when it comes to maintaining and upgrading underground municipal infrastructure that provides us with the necessary clean and treated drinking water that we rely on in our everyday lives.

Ontario’s existing water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure is aging and municipalities are failing to budget and maintain these infrastructure assets in a state of good repair.

A growing population will only put greater stress on these assets and result in increasing system failures across the province.

The Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association (OSWCA) commissioned a that found 20 per cent of Ontario’s water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure is in poor condition or remains in operation beyond its recommended use.

The consequences, if continued to be left ignored, will lead to broken watermains, drinking water contamination, sewage backups or overflows, sinkholes and flooding — or worse, a water crisis like we are seeing in Calgary right now.

That is why it is imperative that municipalities have asset management plans in place and prioritize long-term and sustainable investment into core municipal infrastructure to keep assets in a state of good repair.

A majority of municipalities still exclusively rely on age-based inspections to assess the condition of their assets.

Using age alone to estimate the state of underground infrastructure is insufficient and does not reflect the actual asset condition.

Take the ongoing Calgary crisis as an example. say it is the most dramatic break of a feeder main they have ever seen, and the Bearspaw pipe is only at the halfway point in its life cycle.

Municipalities instead should proactively conduct regular condition-based inspections to maintain and upgrade their assets. Not when it’s too late.

By doing this here, we will avoid the situation that is still developing in Calgary. Ontarians will continue to get the critical infrastructure services they need and avoid system failures that lead to service disruption for life’s necessities.

Stephanie Bellotto is the manager of government relations and communications for the OSWCA and the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association. Send Industry Perspectives Op-Ed comments and column ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

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