Public Works staff in Wembley were changing out some of their water main valves at the same time there happened to be a break Saturday. The valves are used to isolate parts of the community in the case of an issue, but Mayor Chris Turnmire says that they were too old to work.

“We need to change out a number of those main water valves, and it so happened where the break happened we weren’t able to isolate the area so we had to turn the water off to the town.”

Turnmire adds the timing was just a coincidence, but it helped that workers already had the line exposed for repairs. He praises them for the work they did in wind chill temperatures reaching as low as minus 20, as well as the patience of residents dealing with the sudden outage.

Aging infrastructure is a challenge Turnmire says every municipality deals with, and Wembley deals with repairs as they’re needed. The town is already replacing the valves that can no longer turn to shut water off.

“That’s actually what Public Works was doing; they had replaced two valves and they had the hole open and it was a line just back of that that sprung the leak.”

Because the valves weren’t working, the crew had to shut off water to the entire town from roughly 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. A boil water advisory was issued as a routine, and was lifted Thursday morning when results from Alberta Health Services came back clean.

A water transmission line from Grande Prairie to Wembley is still in the works, although Turnmire says it’s taking longer than hoped. The federal government committed $9 million to the project back in September 2016.

“We had a challenge of obtaining right-of-ways coming from Grande Prairie to Wembley. We now have pretty much resolved that so we will be moving forward, hopefully, in the new year, going out to tender and then, hopefully, construction in the spring.”

The project is pegged to be around $23 million, with half covered by Ottawa, 40 per cent by the province, and 10 per cent by the municipality.