What happens during a sanitary main break?

Like water mains, our sanitary pipes sometimes break and require repair.

These types of repairs don't impact your drinking water like a water main break. They impact sanitary service like toilets and drains in your home.

  • During a repair, do not flush your toilet, shower, or use a dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Do not allow water to enter the drains, as it might cause sewer water to re-enter your home.
  • Cover your sinks and drains with a stopper or rag.

The steps to a sanitary main repair

  1. We receive a call from a citizen, roads, 311 or other party
  2. We dispatch a wastewater trouble crew to identify the issue
  3. Utility locators mark gas, sewer, electric, phone and other utilities
  4. We excavate to get at the pipe (between 8-24 feet of asphalt, dirt and other materials)
  5. We assess and repair the pipe best suited for site conditions
  6. We backfill, compact and pave (which can take 8 hours to cool)

What can cause sanitary main breaks?

  • Pipe age - wear and tear, corrosion
  • Pipe material - some older materials break down faster
  • Weather conditions - changes in temperature cause ground shifting
  • Installation process - unforeseen issues
  • Vibrations - heavy traffic, construction, ground shifting
  • Soil types and ground conditions - corrosion, ground water, etc.
Sanitary Main Break Infographic

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Who works on sanitary main repairs?

Responsible for crew and site safety, organizing the job and directing the crew to complete the repair.

Responsible for assessing the break and executing the repair, from the bottom of the excavation hole, in any weather.

Backhoe operator
Responsible for excavating with precision around all utilities.

Responsible for assessing the pipeman's repair and acting as their eyes and ears on the top of the hole.

Tandem driver/labourer
Responsible for removing wet excavated soil and replacing with dry backfill soil and gravel, as well as assisting with many worksite tasks.

Responsible for organizing emergency locates, assists with traffic setups and scouting for potential safety hazards or job-specific challenges the crew may face. This individual works alone, before the crew arrives and is often a senior technical expert.

Types of pipe used in Calgary sanitary repairs

  • Pre-1915: Brick tunnels
  • 1910-1968: Cast iron
  • 1911-1981: Concrete
  • 1951-1980: Steel with concrete coating
  • 1976-present: PVC
  • 1980-present: HDPE
Sanitary Repairs Infographic

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