Busted pipes cause floods
Water systems burst in three downtown buildings

Cindy MacDougall and Melissa Vejins
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 17/99) - Water pouring out downtown doorways and onto streets became a common sight this week after frozen pipes burst in three downtown buildings.

The Yellowknife fire department responded to two calls Monday and one Tuesday for broken water pipes.

A sprinkler head in the front vestibule of the Laing Building burst Monday at 10 a.m., while another sprinkler burst in the lobby of the Northern Heights condominiums at 7 p.m. that evening, according to deputy fire Chief Sandy McPhee.

The most spectacular show of water was at the courthouse, where a water pipe on the main floor froze and burst Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., sending water pouring into the cell block area and onto cars parked in the covered parking lot.

Although the buildings are all along 49th St., McPhee said there is no apparent connection to the floods beyond the recent dip in temperatures. Thermometers were down to -35 C during the early part of this week.

Ter Hamer, property manager for Polar Pandas Development Ltd., said the damage at the courthouse was minimal, since it was the cells that were flooded.

He said Polar Pandas was still trying to isolate the cause of the deluge at the courthouse. However, a malfunctioning heat fan next to the busted pipe gave the holdings company a clue.

"Unfortunately, this does happen from time to time," he said. "It's called cold weather."

The Laing Building's soaking was just as unexpected for the department of public works.

Mike Burns, acting regional superintendent, said it's difficult to predict when a water pipe or sprinkler will be affected by cold.

"It can happen at any time. If someone leaves a door open long enough to start freezing a sprinkler pipe, it could happen," Burns said.

"It's the first time this has happened in 15 years."

The building's maintenance manager, Wayne Barrie, said damage to the building was minimal. The cleanup consisted of vacuuming wet carpets and replacing a few ceiling tiles.

The Northern Heights shower was easier to explain, according to manager Glenn Bird.

He said open loading bay doors were the cause.

"Someone was moving into a condo, the doors were left open and in the space of 15 minutes, the sprinkler heads burst," Bird said.

Bird said water gushed into the lobby, into the elevator pits and even seeped into the mall.

Though tenants' dwellings were spared, damage to the lobby is still being assessed by professional cleaners.

"The ceiling has holes in it, and the black, stagnant water that came out of the pipes may have ruined the carpets and furniture," said Bird.

"At least the Christmas tree (in the lobby) was salvaged, and the presents, too."