06/23/2012 03:28 EDT | Updated 08/23/2012 05:12 EDT

City crews to fix water pipe on Peel Street

Montreal city crews will be back on Peel Street next week to stop a leak in a water pipe which feeds into the Cours Mont-Royal shopping mall.

The leak erupted on Thursday, and is the 14th leak in city pipes within the Ville-Marie borough in the last month.

Peel Street remain opens, though Anik De Repentigny, a spokesperson for the Ville-Marie borough, says the city is unsure if it will shut down streets to finish repairs this week.

This pipe stems from a 30-centimetre water main under Peel Street's northbound lane between Sainte-Catherine Street and de Maisonneuve Boulevard.

The city says workers temporarily stopped the problem by shutting off a water valve. It says this didn't cause water shortages because the Cours Mont-Royal mall has another water entrance off de Maisonneuve Boulevard.

De Repentigny says both leaks were on pipes which were installed in 1888.

City crews fixing series of breaks

On June 12, crews were called to fix a break on a water main under Peel Street's southbound lane between Sainte-Catherine Street and de Maisonneuve Boulevard. The pipe, which measures 20 centimetres in diametre, broke four times in three days.

After eight days of work, crews were called back to fix a new break on the pipe.

On June 11, a 60-centimetre-deep hole appeared on Montreal Canadiens Avenue, in front of the Bell Centre.

Just two days earlier, on June 9, Sherbrooke Street West between McGill College Avenue and University Street reopened, two weeks after a four-metre-square crater appeared hours after a huge student protest marched over that stretch of road.

Stretch of businesses without water

The owner of the Alexandre Restaurant, one of the eateries with dry taps, was stoic — expressing relief that he was spared trouble on Grand Prix weekend and that the borough has no plans to redo the water main completely and close Peel St. for months.

"We have to live with this, by little piece, being closed for half a day or one day," Alain Creton said. "Otherwise it will have to be for months, and I don't think nobody is prepared to close the street for months."

But next door, a manager at the clothing store Miss Sixty expressed frustration about the repeated road closures.

"Last year we had issues right here, again, right in front of my store," Omer Kalwar said, "and we only had about eight people...walk in all day, so it's really, really bad."

Kalwar would like to see Peel Street's infrastructure problems dealt with once and for all.

Major repairs needed, expert says

A specialist in infrastructure rehabilitation agrees that would be a far better way to proceed.

"The pipe is still leaking, and they're just putting more water in," observed McGill professor emeritus of engineering, Saeed Mirza, as he watched repair crews at the site. "That shouldn't be happening. They should fix the leakage first and then fill the hole and fix it."

Mirza predicted the pipe will continue to leak, and the water main will burst again.

The city of Montreal has budgeted $392-million to improve and rebuild water infrastructure over the next three years, but that's a fraction of what will have to be spent to modernize the ageing system.

"All of the infrastructure in Montreal right now, especially the water system, is over 120 years old," said Mirza, "way past its service life."