Thousands of people working in the Allandale Road area of St. John’s Friday got an extended weekend after a water main break on the road forced nearby buildings, including the Confederation Building, to close for the day.
It happened around 10:30 a.m., causing water to spew out of the ground near the west-end entrance to the Confederation Building and the pavement to swell and then sink.
Within minutes, it grew to a gushing river that flowed down the road, forming a pool at the south part of Pippy Park, at the Fluvarium entrance and the bridge at Rennie’s River.
RNC officers and members of the St. John’s Fire Department were on the scene as City of St. John's crews worked to fix the problem.
Allandale Road, from St. Philip Drive to Higgins Line, was closed to traffic, causing some congestion around the area.
With the west exit of the Confederation Building initially closed, the hundreds of employees who poured out of the building's east and west blocks ended up in a snarl in the parking lot as they headed for the east entrance.
“Jesus, it’s going to take me two hours to get out of here!” one woman was heard yelling to a security guard who was directing traffic on the west end of the lot.
A long lineup of vehicles remained at a standstill for about half an hour until city crews gave the OK for motorists to leave via the west end and up Higgins Line.
Along with the Confederation Building, the College of the North Atlantic was without water for the day and was forced to close. A few homes on Nagles Place, just past the Fluvarium, were also affected, but quickly had water restored.
As a result of the road closures, Metrobus had to divert three routes (1, 9 and 14).
By the afternoon, hours after the water valve had been shut off, the site had dried up and crews were busy digging to fix the 16-inch water main, which was installed in 1998 and is not considered old.
Lynnann Windsor, deputy city manager of public works, told reporters water was expected to be restored to the affected buildings Friday evening, and once the repairs are completed, a contractor will be hired to repave the road. She said Allandale Road should be open to one-lane traffic by today.
She said they won’t know what caused the break until they get a good look at the water main.
“Breaks can happen for any reason,” said Windsor, noting the pipe could have weak areas, may not have been installed properly or there could have been a surge in the system.
“It could be any number of factors. It’s really hard to determine what caused any one in particular. … Sometimes you may never know.”
When asked the cost of the repair, Windsor said the city budgets for such incidents.
She said the water reserve wasn’t affected by the flowing water that gushed from the water main, as reservoirs in the water system are built to provide additional water in the event of fires or water main breaks. She didn’t know exactly how much water was lost, “but it wouldn’t be anything out of the norm.”
As well, Windsor said there were no major effects to the nearby bodies of water.
“Usually with water main breaks, our main concern is chlorinated water that goes into (other) water. So, we’re lucky in this regard,” Windsor said. “The river is further down the road, so the chorine would’ve dissipated out of the water. It would’ve been consumed just by travelling through the roadway before it hit (Rennie’s River) and most of the silt should’ve settled before it hit the river.”