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Watermain breaks damages downtown Orillia building and sidewalk

Sara Ross, QMI Agency

A watermain break under Mississaga Street left a large hole in the sidewalk in front of Gourmet Station in Orillia's downtown.

A watermain break under Mississaga Street left a large hole in the sidewalk in front of Gourmet Station in Orillia's downtown. SARA ROSS/QMI AGENCY

An watermain break has carved a large cavern underneath Mississaga Street in Orillia's downtown, collapsing the sidewalk in front of Gourmet Station.

“The break in the watermain propelled the water directly into the building's foundation, which washed away the foundation and considerable infrastructure underneath,” Andrew Schell, Orillia's acting director of public works, said Sunday.

The 200 millimetre watermain — located under Mississsaga Street at the Andrew Street intersection — broke sometime Saturday evening.

“By the time crews were able to turn off the water unfortunately we had quite a cavern underground,” Schell said.

The water has damaged the foundation of the building at 42 Mississaga St. S., the sidewalk out front and a portion of the street at the northwest corner of the intersection.

“The roadway has been compromised underneath,” Schell said. “(Some portions of (asphalt) have no road base underneath it currently.”

The city hasn't pegged a dollar figure on the damage.

“At this time, I cannot even estimate,” Schell said.

On Sunday afternoon, K. Knight Contracting Ltd. of Orillia was working on stabilizing the building.

The building must be shored up before repair work to the municipal infrastructure can begin, Schell said.

“We are unable to start any of our repairs currently because any vibration could cause more structural damage to the building,” he said. “The first game plan is to provide structural integrity to the building.”

Union Gas is on scene as the water damage has left a gas line “hanging under the road,” Schell said.

“We're providing structural integrity for the gas main,” he said. “Those are our two priorities: the building and the gas main. Once both of those are looked after we can get in and start.”

It is common for watermains to break during the winter, Schell said.

“We often have watermain breaks during the winter,” he said. “It's an unfortunate part of our business.”

The watermain underneath that portion of street is 50 to 60 years old.

“It's still in good shape,” Schell said.

Although the incident is isolated to a specific intersection, Mississaga Street is closed to traffic from West to Albert streets while city crews conduct their investigation and begin repair work.

The area will be closed for at least a week, but occupants of the building may enter sooner, Schell said.

It is undetermined when the shops will reopen.

The family who owns Impression House, stood across the road from the scene Sunday watching the shoring work take place.

“It's pretty crazy,” said Joe Frantz.

Impression House at 44 Mississaga St. W. is right beside Gourmet Station.

“We called the insurance people and we're just getting things looked after one step at a time,” Carey Frantz said. “I'm hopeful we'll be able to open tomorrow.”

Municipal drinking water remains safe.


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