CUI is committed to improving the reliability and supply of potable water to Chestermere’s Customers.
Recently, it has been observed that aging copper water lines are developing leaks which are contributing to increased and significant water losses for Chestermere. As such, CUI has initiated a Copper Service Investigation Project to identify and subsequently repair the source of the leaks. If your water service line or private water line is made of copper, this project is applicable to your property.
Copper water leaks typically start small and grow over time. Leaks can be occurring for years as corrosion increases over time resulting in low water pressure, sink holes and potentially local contamination of the water distribution system. While there may be some exceptions, copper water lines in Chestermere stopped being installed about 15 years ago, around the year 2000.
CUI is working with EPCOR to ensure the integrity of existing water system components, with a specific focus on copper service connections. Over the next few months, you may see an EPCOR leak detection technician in the community “listening” for leaks. The technician will connect a piece of equipment called a correlator to the curb stop, and will listen to the sound pattern the water makes as it flows through the valve. If the pattern is unusual, EPCOR will temporarily shut off the water to further investigate and identify where the potential leak is located.
If a leak is detected, the party responsible for completing the repairs pursuant to the City of Chestermere Water Bylaw 025-13 will be identified and repairs will be completed as soon as possible. A leak associated with the water service line that extends from the water main to the service connection point, is the responsibility of CUI to repair. Customers are responsible to repair leaks associated with their private water lines which extends from the service connection point to and within a Customer’s property.
Customers will be notified if a water leak has been detected near or on their property, and CUI will work with them to discuss the plan to repair the leak.
Approximately 14 leaks have been detected and repaired year-to-date (June 2017).
Which areas will be affected?
Homes and subdivisions that were built prior to the year 2000 may have copper water services. CUI’s records suggest there are as many as 1,500 homes in Chestermere which have copper water services, with the majority of these homes being located in the Cove, Lakeview Shores (including West & East Chestermere Drive) and West Creek.
What is potable water?
Potable water refers to water that is safe to drink or use for food preparation, without the risk of health problems.
What is a “curb stop”?
A “curb stop” refers to a valve connected to a water service line that enables the turning-on and shutting-off of the water supply to a Customer’s property.
What is a private water line?
A private water line is the portion of a service connection, which extends from the service connection point to and within a Customer’s property. The Customer’s property includes the Customer owned assembly of pipes, fittings, fixtures, traps and appurtenances for providing water to their property. It excludes the water meter which is owned by CUI that measures and records the amount of water supplied to your home or business and helps detect leaks in the water system.
What is a service connection?
A service connection refers to all the facilities required to achieve a physical connection between CUI’s water main abutting a Customer’s property and a private water line which allows a Customer to receive potable water. This includes a water service line, a service connection point, and a private water line.
What is a service connection point?
A service connection point or curb stop is where a water service line physically connects to a private water line, which ordinarily is a point at or near a Customer’s property line, but may be within the boundaries of an easement area granted to CUI for its water system.
What is a water main?
Water main refers to the pipes installed for the conveyance of water within Chestermere to which service connections may be connected.
What is a water service line?
A water service line is the portion of a service connection owned by CUI that extends from the water main to the service connection point.
What are water services?
Water services means the provision of potable water by CUI to a Customer’s property and the associated services offered to the Customer under Chestermere’s Water Bylaw No. 025-13.
What is Chestermere’s water system?
Chestermere’s water system refers to the facilities used by CUI to supply potable water to Customers, which is deemed to be a public utility within the meaning of the Municipal Government Act.
Why are Chestermere’s copper service lines leaking?
Unfortunately, we have seen a significant increase in failure of copper service pipes in Chestermere over the last few years. 14 leaks in copper service lines have already been identified and repaired in 2017 (as of June 2017). Copper service failures are happening in various neighborhoods across our system and are not associated with just one Developer or homebuilder. There are a number of potential causes of these failures including location specific variables such as the chemistry of the soil and/or ground water. The failures may also be an unintended consequence of changing construction practices and technologies over time.
When originally installed, copper piping was expected to last for 50 years or more, and now utilities across North America are seeing these same services reach end of life in as short as 20 years. Experts suggest that in addition to local chemistry variables, the absence of cathodic protection could be contributing to the failure of the copper water services. Homes built 100 years ago with copper services had a natural occurring form of cathodic protection. Back then, homes had copper pipes and were likely connected to steel or aluminum water services and cast iron sewer lines. The electricity in the house would have been grounded back to those same pipes. The residual current traveling near these services protected the copper pipes from corrosion. Of note, while the copper services were being protected from corrosion, it was actually to the detriment of the cast iron mains as they became the “sacrificial anode” and deteriorated. So, over the years, construction practices changed. Cast iron sewers have been replaced by concrete, water services are now PVC, and electricity is grounded to a small metal plate somewhere in your house. Taken together, the result is that the copper water services outside the home are no longer protected from corrosion in the same way they may have been in the past, leading to an increased rate of corrosion.
What type of material are water lines made of?
For the last 50 years or so, copper tubing was the material of choice for domestic water service and distribution. Wood, clay, iron and steel have also been used throughout history, but those materials had inherent problems, mainly the propensity to collapse or corrode internally.
Copper water lines in Chestermere stopped being installed about 15 years ago. Currently, the best alternative to copper is crosslinked polyethylene tubing also known as PEX. PEX has been reported to be tougher than copper and works better in areas where there is a low pH (in either the soil or water).
What is involved for a repair to be completed?
If a leak is detected, the party responsible for completing the repairs pursuant to the City of Chestermere Water Bylaw 025-13 will be identified and repairs will be completed as soon as possible.
CUI is responsible for repairing for leaks associated with the water service line that extends from the water main to the service connection point. A local contractor will be hired to excavate the old copper line and replace it with a new PEX line. It is anticipated a repair crew of up to 6 people, will be on site at any one time, working between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm, Monday to Saturday. Typically, a repair takes 1 day to complete. It can take another 3 weeks after the repair until the surface is reinstated.
If a leak is detected on the public side of the service connection, CUI will notify the Customer and offer to exchange the entire copper line between the watermain and the Customer’s building, sharing construction costs according to the respective portion of the length of the service line. The Customer may decline this option, at which point they are asked to acknowledge that future damage on their part of the property will have to be repaired at their own cost.
Customers are responsible for repairing leaks associated with their private water lines which extends from the service connection point to and within a Customer’s property. Customers will hire a contractor of their choosing to repair the leak.
Arrangements will be made for temporary water service until repairs can be completed. The temporary water line is metered for consumption and all normal water and sewer charges will be applied to the account owner’s normal monthly CUI utility bill.
Can the copper be recycled?
How much does a repair cost and who pays for it?
There are many factors that influence the total repair cost including the location of the leak, the amount of water line that needs to be excavated and replaced, and other landscaping considerations. For example, it is faster and therefore less expensive to excavate and remediate grass versus construction activities where concrete removal and replacement is required. The costs can be significant as repairs can be in the $10K range.
CUI is responsible for repairing leaks associated with the water service line that extends from the water main to the service connection point. If a leak is detected on the public side of the service connection, CUI will notify the Customer and offer to exchange the entire copper line between the watermain and the Customer’s building, sharing construction costs according to the respective portion of the length of the service line The Customer may decline this option, at which point they are asked to acknowledge that future damage on their part of the property will have to be repaired at their own cost.
Customers are responsible for repairing leaks associated with their private water lines which extends from the service connection point to and within a Customer’s property.
What are the benefits of replacing a private copper water service line at the same time as a public copper water service line replacement by CUI?
Replacing your private copper service water line when CUI replaces the public water lines could save you time and money. You will save time as CUI has already identified and selected a qualified contractor offering a competitive rate. As CUI is already paying for the mobilization and demobilization of the construction crew to the area, you will save construction costs associated with this activity. Seasonal conditions should also be considered. If your water service starts to leak in the winter, construction costs can be significantly higher due to frozen ground conditions. Temporary water service hook-ups to supply you with potable water from your neighbour’s house until the work is complete will also be more expensive in the winter due to higher heating costs.
What if I decline the option to replace my water service as part of this project?
If a Customer decides not to proceed with the replacement of their water service, CUI will install an “anode” on their water service as part of our project. An anode is a piece of metal which is intended to attract the corrosion instead of the copper pipe. The goal is that the installation of an anode is to may slow the corrosion that is occurring on the copper services and reduce the risk of future leaks occurring. However, because we do not know with a high degree of certainty whether this technique will work in Chestermere, CUI cannot provide any guarantees as to its effectiveness.
Will there be any service disruptions to existing Customers?
No, there will not be service disruptions to existing Customers. Arrangements will be made for temporary water service until the repair can be completed.
What would happen if CUI did not proceed with the Copper Services Investigation Project?
Copper water service leaks typically start small and grow over time. Leaks can be occurring for years as corrosion increases over time resulting in low water pressure, sink holes and potentially local contamination of the water distribution system if the pressure drops too low because of the leaks. Proactively identifying leaks and repairing them, aids in the conservation of our precious water resource and decreases the water loss expense that is included in CUI’s approved utility rates.
What impact does the Copper Services Investigation Project have on my rates?
At this point, the number of copper service water line leaks is unknown. We will have more information on the cost for fixing these leaks once the Copper Services Investigation Project activities have been completed. We do know that if no action is taken to identify and repair leaks, and water losses continue at the current level, rates will increase to cover the cost of increased water losses (water that Chestermere buys from the City of Calgary but doesn’t get used by Customers and just seeps into the ground or storm system). This program is being implemented to minimize water losses and reduce the risk of increased rates.
If you have any questions about the Copper Services Investigation Project please contact us at 403-207-7284.