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Sewage closes Gyro Park. Rupture in pipe repaired but cleanup, restoration to continue today.

By Andrew Petrozzi, Times Colonist May 12, 2001

Yellow caution tape greeted walkers Friday morning at Gyro Park in Cadboro Bay after the East Coast Interceptor sewage line ruptured near the parking lot, resulting in the park's closure.

The break occurred at approximately 2:30 Thursday afternoon when the pressurized 20-inch PVC sewer main ruptured underground in front of the seawall on the southeast side of the park. It had broken in three different places.

Crews worked continuously from shortly after the break was discovered and had repaired the pipe by 2 p.m. Friday. Restoration and cleanup of the site will continue at least through today.

"We're hoping to have the beaches open for Sunday." Said Robert Bradbury, acting manager of Capital Health Region's Health Protection and Environmental Services. "I'll be talking with Dr. Stanwick (the Capital Regional District's medical health officer) and we'll hopefully be in a position Saturday to have it open for Mother's Day."

The Arts in Gyro Park event scheduled for Saturday has been postponed until Sunday, May 27.

The pipe rupture is believed to have been caused by the Feb. 28 earthquake that was centred near Seattle.

"There is flexion of the joints that would indicate that's the case," said Jim McFarland, manager of operations and local services for the CRD. He said the spill was contained to the parking lot with no indication that any discharge reached the beach or the water.

"The park area is actually a peat bog," said McFarland. "The pipe rests on timber piles to support it." Piles are used to give the pipe added stability underground. When the ground shifts the pipe can fall off the piles and stress points develop. The soft ground can make matters worse.

This was the fourth sewage line break in the Gyro Park area over the past 10 years according to McFarland. The last spill, in May 1996, spewed raw sewage into the park and onto the beach areas.

"After the '96 spill, we took a lot of steps to mitigate any problems in the future. This included putting isolation valves in the pipeline in case of a failure, warning alarms to alert us to pressure drops, and an inspection of the pipe to ensure it was in good condition," McFarland said.

The flow of sewage was temporarily diverted to the sewer outfall at Finnerty Cove.

"We have been able to mitigate potential problems because we have been able to shut off this section of the sewer line," explained McFarland. Water samples from Gyro Park and Finnerty Cove will be analyzed to assess the impact of the spill.

Pump trucks removed the sewage and groundwater from under the parking lot and pumped it back into the sewer system. The parking lot surface has been removed and lime laid down while sewage-soaked soil will be disposed of at the Hartland landfill.

Residents of the nearby Beachview Place seemed apathetic to the rupture. Longtime resident Norma Fitzsimmons was not concerned. "We've got good tides out there. It would be nice to fix the sewage thing, but it's been going on for years. I don't know what they can do about it."

The region will be looking for additional ways to avoid this happening again, said McFarland. A report is expected to be presented to the CRD environmental committee by June. The results of water quality tests are expected over the next three days.

Regional health authorities have posted warnings on the beaches at Gyro Park as a precaution. "Clearly there is going to be a need for the CRD Environmental Services group to look at the issue, see what the problem is and come up with a solution." Said Bradbury.

The $19-million East Coast Interceptor was completed in 1992. The 9,970 metre pipe intercepts sewage from all of Oak Bay and the eastern third of both Saanich and Victoria.

It diverts unscreened sewage from existing marine outfalls at Finnerty Cove, Rutland Road, Humber Road and McMicking Point as well as interception of overflows from Oak Bay and Victoria sewage systems.



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