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Ban on non-essential water use in Edmonton area due to pump failure at water plant

Epcor has implemented a mandatory ban on non-essential water use after electrical issues caused pump failures at one of its two water treatment plants in Edmonton. (Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit)
Epcor has implemented a mandatory ban on non-essential water use after electrical issues caused pump failures at one of its two water treatment plants in Edmonton. (Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit)

Residents and businesses in the Edmonton area will need to restrict non-essential water use until further notice, after a pump failure at a water treatment plant.

A mandatory ban on non-essential water use was issued Monday after an electrical issue caused pump failures at the E.L. Smith water treatment plant in southwest Edmonton, Epcor said.

There is no timeline for when the ban will be lifted.

Customers in surrounding communities — including Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Morinville, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Beaumont, Fort Saskatchewan and others — have been told to limit non-essential water use.

Businesses using large volumes of non-essential water, such as laundromats and car washes, are being asked to halt water use.

Craig Bonneville, Epcor's director of engineering and technical services, told reporters businesses using water to provide essential products like hospitals and restaurants are exempt from these measures.

Residential users are also being asked to conserve water by taking short showers, as well as delaying laundry and dishwashing.

"I also want to make sure to emphasize that the water is safe to drink and we're working very hard to restore service as soon as possible," Bonneville said.

Epcor could not provide a timeline Monday afternoon for when the E.L. Smith plant will resume normal operations.
Epcor could not provide a timeline Monday afternoon for when the E.L. Smith plant will resume normal operations.

Epcor could not provide a timeline Monday afternoon for when the E.L. Smith plant will resume normal operations. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Officials said Monday afternoon there was a failure around 2 a.m. in the E.L. Smith plant's pumping systems that move water into the water distribution system.

The company is now working on directly contacting all of its commercial and industrial customers to notify them of the ban, Bonneville said. Information was also posted to social media.

However, none of the more than 10 businesses contacted by CBC News Monday said they were aware of  the restriction.

Bonneville said the Rossdale water treatment plant is still functioning normally, but cannot adequately supply the entire service area with normal water consumption. He added there is no impact to the quality of drinking water.

Similar bans don't happen often, he said, noting there are usually redundancy systems in place.

"This failure happened in a manner that resulted in multiple pieces of equipment not being able to operate," he said.

"We don't ask our customers to do this very often, so … this measure will help us a lot to give us that extra time to make the repairs necessary to restore service."

Crews are working to repair the failure, he said, but it's unclear when service from the E.L. Smith facility will be restored.

"We are optimistic we can get the repairs done in a timely manner, but we don't have those specific timelines available right now," he said.

Municipalities issue water bans

Following Epcor's water ban, municipalities in the Edmonton area began issuing their own bans.

Morinville, Stony Plain and St. Albert have announced they will begin conserving water to maintain essential water service for firefighting, food preparation and sanitation.

It means town operations like sewer flushing, firefighter hydrant training, fleet vehicle washing, or other heavy water use activities have been suspended.