Friday’s watermain break isn’t the first in the city of Hamilton. And it certainly won’t be the last. Aging infrastructure has become a harsh reality for century-old cities across the province.
There are two thousand kilometres of watermains buried underneath Hamilton streets. Half of the pipes are 50 years old, a quarter are over 75 and some, which are made of wood, date back to the late 1800’s.
Each year, the city spends over 35 million dollars repairing or replacing its aging pipes with priority based on data collected over the years.
John Murray is with the City of Hamilton: “For every single watermain, we have data on the age of the pipe, the type of pipe, the soil condition the pipe sits in, and more importantly we have all of the break history over time.”
Most of the pipes in Hamilton are made of cast iron, which can last between 80 and 90 years. Surprisingly the most durable pipes happen to be some of the oldest.
Murray: “The older cast iron pipes, prior to World War II, the manufacturing process wasn’t as good for cast iron. So when they spun those pipes, they had a much thicker wall thickness. Today, the manufacturing process is much better after the 1940’s so when they spun those pipes they made a much thinner wall. The problem is the cast iron deteriorates the same. So we actually have more problems with some of the newer pipes as opposed to the older pipes.”
Murray says finding the dollars to update an aging infrastructure isn’t a problem isolated to Hamilton. Cities across the province are facing similar challenges: “When we look at the overall infrastructure deficit, it’s not a Hamilton issue, it’s an issue across Southern Ontario, across Canada, across North America. There’s not enough money being put into infrastructure and every city needs more money for infrastructure to deal with the looming infrastructure deficit that we have.”