McGill’s downtown campus suffered severe flooding after a 48-inch water main burst under Doctor Penfield Ave. in front of the McTavish Reservoir on Monday. Campus buildings were evacuated and all evening classes were cancelled.
The flooded area stretched from Dr. Penfield Ave. to Ste. Catherine Street, and from Union Street to Peel Street, causing pedestrians and traffic to be re-routed in downtown Montreal.
The Reservoir is in the middle of the second phase of renovations, which aim to replace the surrounding tank and water mains. The repairs, conducted by the City of Montreal and estimated to cost $16.4 million, began in October 2012 and are expected to be completed in August 2013. Built in 1852, the Reservoir provides drinking water to 500,000 Montrealers in seven boroughs of the city.
A McGill Fire Prevention Crew worker who chose to remain anonymous said that, despite the harsh weather conditions of the past week, the cold was probably not the reason for the break.
“[The construction workers] were working with the big machinery,” he said. “They hit the seal, it broke, and they thought there was no pressure in that pipe, but there was pressure in the water.”
The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President Clubs and Services Allison Cooper said the flooding was a great inconvenience for SSMUfest, the Winter semester’s Activities Night. The event was planned for the evening, but had to be rescheduled for Tuesday night, the day after.
“It’s the worst possible timing,” she said. “We told the club leaders to get here at 3:30 p.m., and now they are trapped with no people to greet.”
McGill’s Media Relations Office (MRO) sent out a series of emergency emails throughout the evening. One message referred to the flooding as “a serious situation,” and mentioned that “a number of buildings” on the downtown campus had been flooded.
“We are trying to assess damage as best we can, but it will be extensive,” read an MRO message from 4:55 p.m. “We will provide more information as it becomes available.”
Following the evacuation of the SSMU Building, SSMU President Josh Redel said that there were no signs of flooding in the building.
“We’ve been checking the basement, and everything’s good to go,” Redel said. “We haven’t seen any leaks in areas where we’ve noticed them before.”
In Sept. 2011, a leak in a 16-inch water main at the entrance of the pumping station of the Reservoir flooded Service Point, McLennan Library, and Wilson Hall. In 2009, a burst in a 42-inch pipe at the top of Dr. Penfield Ave. flooded many of the same buildings.
McGill could not be reached for comment.