Hwy. 174 sinkhole blamed on fish

Tadpoles are to blame for traffic woes in the east end, a city councillor charges.

The storm sewer under Hwy. 174 at the eastbound Jeanne d’Arc Blvd. off-ramp — which crumbled, causing an enormous sinkhole that swallowed a car — wasn’t repaired sooner because of concerns over protecting local fish populations during the spawning season, said Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais.

“This is the lining work that would’ve avoided this whole situation…Remember, this is a storm drain, right? We’re not talking about salmon running up the storm drain here,” Blais said.

The city, he said, applied to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority for the necessary permits to complete the lining on the 50-year-old pipe, budgeted at $1.5 million, in February.

The sinkhole opened up shortly after 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Juan Pedro Unger, 48, escaped with minor scrapes. And commuters have been crippled since.

“We were told by RVCA that no work on this project could be done until July 1, and then it took them four months to offer their approval,” he said. “This was one of my fears that some form of regulatory approvals delayed the fix.”

The pipe was worked on earlier Tuesday morning then collapsed that evening.

Blais called the timing unacceptable.

“We need to have a much better coordination and framework to ensure that these kinds of approvals on critical infrastructure are given absolute priority,” Blais said.

It’s the “second catastrophic failure” in two years, said Blais, referring to the broken water main on Woodroffe Ave. which led to the outdoor water ban last year.

Mayor Jim Watson shot back, calling Blais’ comments incorrect.

“The timelines to re-line the storm drain were not impacted by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. Staff have confirmed this – his misinformation is not helpful,” Watson said in a statement.

The first pipe was installed Friday to fix the Hwy. 174 sinkhole and more will be delivered and put in over the weekend.

Crews are working 24/7 but heavy rain is predicted, which could hinder progress.

Repairs will take at least another week.

Earlier in the day, minister of infrastructure and transportation Bob Chiarelli called the sinkhole a “wake up call,” but the province is staying out of the debacle.

“We don’t tell municipalities what to do,” Chiarelli said.

Watson said, “Our top priority and focus right now is to get the pipe replaced and open the road as soon as possible.”

The car will likely be removed Friday or Saturday.

For details on traffic routes and detours, visit ottawa.ca

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche

http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/09/07/hwy-174-sinkhole-blamed-on-fish

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