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McTavish under water

Sam Reynolds

McGill students enjoying the warm weather early Thursday evening on McTavish Street found themselves along the banks of a gushing river.

Around 5:30 p.m., a burst pipe at a pumping station on Dr. Penfield Ave. sent thousands of gallons of water flowing down McTavish Street. Water flooded a number of campus buildings, including the Service Point, McLennan Library, and Wilson Hall. Friday morning classes at Wilson had to be relocated.

Firefighters arrived on scene minutes after the leak occurred, and stayed on campus cleaning up late into the night.

“The call came in around 5:30 p.m. [Thursday] and the last unit to leave the scene did [so] at 2 a.m. [Friday] morning,” Simon Limoges, chief of operations for the Montreal Fire Department, said.

The leak, which occurred in a 16-inch main pipe at the entrance of the pumping station, was stopped quickly by city employees. However, water continued to flow down McTavish for nearly an hour.

“The leak was stopped pretty fast,” Limoges said, “but a 16-inch pipe has a lot of water in it, so that’s why it had time to enter the building[s].”

“We used high-capacity pumps to pump out [the water],” Limoges said. “As for the library, there was not enough water to use pumps so we helped the workers there to evacuate the water through the drain.”

In total, seven units comprising of about 15-20 firefighters were sent to help.

Ron Proulx, McGill’s Executive Director of Facilities Operations and Development, explained that buildings far from McTavish, like Ferrier and Wilson on the east side of campus, were flooded not from surface water but rather from infiltration through the ground.

“This is water that found its way through subterranean channels,” Proulx said.

He recalled a similar incident that took place two years ago in which an underground 42-inch pipe at the top of Dr. Penfield Ave. burst and flooded many of the same buildings.

“Any time that there is an excessive amount of water, it will most likely find those channels,” Proulx said. “This is what I shared with the director of city water-works.”

MJ Tyler, U3 Arts, was outside McLennan when a friend received a call about the flood.

“Of course, the first thing to do is gather your stuff and race to see what’s happening,” Tyler said. “We stood around for a while and then I realized, why stand outside the river when you can play in it?”

Tyler noted that the stream of water was about  four inches deep, moving quickly, and that “it could knock you over if you weren’t careful.”

She and her friends were later “shooed out of the water” by McGill security and city workers.

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  1. Pingback: Water main break in McTavish Reservoir floods campus and downtown Montreal - McGill Tribune

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