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Aging water utility line breaks frustrate area residents in Lac La Biche

A handful of residents and homeowners in the hamlet of Lac La Biche are feeling frustrated by the impact of several waterline breaks in the last six years due to aging infrastructure. The municipal-owned underground cast iron pipes breaks, along 101A St. near the Royal Canadian Legion continues to cause grief for homeowners and residents who are looking for a resolution.

LAC LA BICHE - A handful of residents and homeowners in the hamlet of Lac La Biche are feeling frustrated by the impact of several waterline breaks due to aging infrastructure. The municipal-owned underground cast iron pipes, along 101A St. and near the Royal Canadian Legion, have not only caused homeowners to lose access to running water during emergencies for over six years but now are becoming even more unbearable, said Janice Tichonuk. 

Tichonuk on behalf of her senior mother alongside many other property owners who live in the area voiced their concerns to municipal officials during a July 26 council meeting. She advocated for a permanent solution rather than regular repairs that have proven to not last on the 60-year-old aging infrastructure. 

“Repairs to date appear to merely be somewhat of a band-aid fix on a much bigger issue. An issue quite frankly that could pose an impact on many more residents within Lac la Biche County in the years ahead,” she said. 

County concern 

However, the aging infrastructure is not unique to the area and is a part of over a decade-long plan to replace several sections of underground waterlines throughout the county, according to municipal infrastructure and engineering long-term plans last February. The total projects which were expected to cost roughly $50 million last winter which includes the 101A St. line, but getting that project moved ahead to meet homeowner's requests right away is a challenge , said County Coun. Jason Stedman. 

“We have a lot of 60-year-old iron-casted pipes throughout our hamlet, we are addressing them pieces by pieces as we can. It’s a very costly and expensive process and unfortunately, somebody gets done today and somebody has to wait longer down the line.” 

While one of the largest series of waterline projects is along Main Street, the stress for residents in the area who have not only experienced service disruptions but property damage is overwhelming, said Tichnonuk. 

For some not only damages are a concern but insurance premiums for one resident have doubled in recent years due to the bursts. 

“My insurance doubled because of the claims that I had to put in for the water main breaks and that’s my stress. If there is another water main break then my insurance goes up again so it costs me money, said Nadia Abougoush, one of the Tichonuk’s neighbours. 

“If I ever want to sell that house it will be really hard to replace…it’s really stressful that I have to think about that in the future.” 

Senior challenges 

For many in the area who are elderly—including Tichonuk’s mother whois self relient—tending to an emergent situation with potentially limited mobility is tough enough on top of regular duties.  

“My mother is a senior and I can’t express to you the stress that I feel because when she phones me in the morning—like last time—and there was a water break she didn’t receive bottled water until noon,” she said with little solutions to handle the situation.  

“She called me in a panic…I feel the stress for her even more so because there is nothing I can really do other than coming and consoling her. I just want you to understand how big of stress that is, especially on a senior trying to just manage the home in itself and it’s broken on both sides of her house multiple times.” 


While county officials and administration continue to look over ways to replace vital infrastructure services, the county is aware of 101A St. dire need, said County Coun. Sterling Johnson. 

“We did ask administration to expedite this street because we’ve had so many problems with it. It did catch our eye, it is there and it’s in our thoughts…it’s public enemy number one. That’s what we can say but it has to be engineered and brought forward right.” 

Originally, tackling the Main Street waterlines that are made of varying cast iron lay and other materials was at the top of the list, but the recent pause on the multi-million project due to increased costs, now opens up an opportunity to shift directions, he added. 

“Until three months ago Main Street was our main concern and then this was number two."

"Now that Main Street isn’t going to happen this year well we have to have those discussions on what to do,” said Johnson. 

Moving forward, County council will address the project details and timeline in the coming months.