Bell: City of Calgary water pipe probe, don't count on the whole truth

‘The community is concerned. They want to understand how something we rely on, depend on, no longer think about how we are serviced by, failed us,’ says Coun. Wyness

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The devil is in the details.

And it’s been a long time since Calgary city council has had a political exorcism.

Now Mayor Jyoti Gondek and city hall brass say they want to get to the bottom of what happened with the ruptured pipe from Hell.

You know, they say there’s now going to be an expert panel who will take a look at the situation and also come up with some ideas so this mess doesn’t happen in the future.

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It is called a review. I hate reviews. So many of them are butt-covering exercises where no one is held accountable, nobody is found to be responsible.

An inquiry is a little better. Fewer places to hide. More out in the open.

If Tuesday was any indication of how open Calgary city hall is to looking in the mirror, it was not encouraging.

At a council gabfest Jennifer Wyness, the councillor who likes to ask questions stays true to form and asks questions.

Last week, city hall brass didn’t appear happy with her poking and prodding.

This week, the same.

Wyness asks a lot of technical questions and finally one of the city hall big shots retreats and says their focus is on repairing the pipe.

Apparently they can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

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And at one point, the mayor intervenes.

Wyness isn’t backing down.

“I’m just trying to get clarity on a question and it’s not being answered.”

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Like that’s never happened at city hall before.

Gondek responds to the councillor with curiosity.

“He actually gave you the answer and said these are the kinds of things we’re looking into.”

Later, Wyness says she has a whole bunch more questions needing answers.

So do we all.

“When you have a main water feeder line that has not been evaluated in 10 years, it was evaluated zero times. That is a problem,” says Wyness.

“They’ve described it as the main artery of our water system.

“It’s extremely problematic and concerning to hear how the main artery of our whole water system was not evaluated in 10 years.”

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Now here is the hammer.

Wyness says if this review isn’t going to get to the whole truth and nothing but the truth she will go to the floor of city council to push for an investigation willing to dig to the bottom of a very deep hole.

“I’m trying to get clarification of what their vision of this is,” says the councillor, of the city hall plan for a review of the water pipe fiasco.

“If it’s not a good enough vision I will be writing a notice of motion to get a third-party audit that will actually evaluate our procedural failings.”

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This is important stuff, no matter how many social media warriors want to shut down questioning.

“The community is concerned. They want to understand how something we rely on, depend on, no longer think about how we are serviced by, failed us,” says Wyness.

“And I’m stubborn enough to fight to get the answers Calgarians are looking for.”

Jennifer Wyness
Calgary Ward 2 Coun. Jennifer Wyness speaks to administration during a council meeting at the Calgary Municipal Building on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedia

Another councillor who stepped up is Raj Dhaliwal.

Dhaliwal worked in the oilpatch and is a pipeline engineer.

Dhaliwal dusts off his science books and tell a city hall higher-up whatever happened to the pipe that blew it was not a catastrophic failure coming out of nowhere.

It is just not possible.

The city hall higher-up says Dhaliwal is wrong. You can have a catastrophic failure.

“It’s a liquid line. It’s a water line. My understanding, from whatever science I know, I don’t think you can have a catastrophic rupture on a pipeline that is a liquid pipeline,” says Dhaliwal.

“It takes lots of leaking over time for the pipe to finally break. That’s my struggle.”

Throughout the day one wonders if any heads will roll or even be identified.

Will anyone be held accountable?

There is a sense if anyone screwed up they will walk away without a scratch.

Calgary city council
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek addresses Ward 2 Coun. Jennifer Wyness during a council meeting at the Calgary Municipal Building on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedia

The mayor says she knows we want answers.

With each passing day, as my previous column pointed out, the repair time is shortening.

On or about Canada Day this ugliness could all be over.

Except for the what, the why and the who, of course.

“I look forward to the light that this will shine on what led up to the failure of this pipe and how we can prevent anything like this from ever happening again,” says Gondek, of the review.

You know we will hold the mayor to her word.

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