Critical sewage repair underway to avert Don River contamination

City crews have been at work underground at the corner of Coxwell Avenue and O’Connor Drive. The repair of sewage trunk lines began in October 2010, at a cost of $30 million. (COXWELL_CONST_E)

Beneath Toronto lies a damaged sewage pipe, a pipe so critical that if it burst, according to a city water expert, it could destroy the Don River.

In 2008, city crews sent down a robot to examine the Coxwell Sanitary Trunk Sewer and discovered a damaged trunk sewer, 60 metres beneath the intersection of Coxwell Avenue and O’Connor Drive. According to Lou Di Gironimo, general manager of Toronto Water, this sewer is the most critical pipe in the entire city. He calculated the potential damage if the pipe ever broke.

“The back up sewage would flow entirely into the Don River,” he said. “There would be no way to turn it off and the environmental impact would be huge.”

Following the site examination three years ago, Toronto Water recommended to City Council that emergency measures be taken to repair the sewer.

“There are four large sewers that serve the northern part of the city and they all converge here,” Di Gironimo said. “It can never be taken out of service and it handles the flow of over 750,000 people.”

The firm McNally Construction began work on the sewer repair in October, with a completion date set for January 2011 and a price tag of $30 million. According to Di Gironimo, however, when building an exit shaft, repair crews uncovered extra concrete leftover from an old sewage pumping system that took extra time to remove.

“This lost us a few months and our new completion date in May 2011,” he said.

At a meeting held at the East York Civic Centre tonight, residents were given the opportunity to hear how the city plans to finalize and beautify the area once construction is complete

Some residents attending the meeting expressed concern that the O’Connor and Coxwell intersection is dangerous. David Cook, a resident of the area, said he feared for the safety of workers.

“We fear that for maintenance people coming out on O’Connor. It is a crazy intersection, with crazy turns, and their staff are in danger of being hit,” he said.

The city responded by explaining that it plans to build a “daylight triangle” that will ensure that the new green space does not block oncoming traffic.

At Tuesday’s information meeting, Charles and Joanne Kim, right, speak with lanscape architect Bob Dobbin about the sewer construction beneath their home in the Coxwell and O’Connor area. (KIMS_EDIT)

Joanne and Charles Kim live at 2 Coxwell Blvd., adjacent to the construction site. The couple voiced concerns at the meeting.

“The city has not been calling us back or emailing,” Joanne Kim said. “Our house is currently sinking.”

De Gironimo said that work crews regularly monitor all activity around the construction site.

“We have weekly records of what movement is going on and there has not been any (buildings sinking,)” he said. “We warned (residents) that there would be construction and disturbance. In the end, construction will always disrupt people.”

Landscape architect, Bob Dobbin, addressed the above ground traffic problem by describing the way the intersection will look once the underground sewage repair is completed.

“We are trying to make it a better space … appropriate for the neighbourhood,” Dobbin said. “What we want is a space that is for both pedestrians and trucks. We could’ve made it all asphalt. Instead, we made them a green space.”