In the coming months, city contractors will be re-mortaring crumbling brick structures from the early 1900s – but few will every see their handiwork.
Below the ground are roughly five kilometres of brick storm drains, built three layers deep.
While not comparable to the subterranean marvels of London in magnitude, the pipes do compare in craftsmanship, said Carla Coghlan, the City of Victoria’s senior technician of underground design.
Through the years, the pipes have been abused by traffic, construction projects and other weathering, but have never been maintained.
“We’ve just got the go ahead to do some restorative work on these brick structures,” Coghlan said.
The work, valued at $1.3 million for 2011, comes after a lengthy assessment. From 2006 to 2008, the city ran cameras down the pipes. They’ve since been categorized based on repair needs.
Between now and June, crews will go in to touch up cracks and crumbles with new bricks and mortar. Those in need of more serious repair will have to wait until the right expertise can be found.
The pipes, which are 1.8 metres in width and 1.2 metres in height, are egg-shaped or arch-shaped rather than circular.
“It’s not a standard pipe network that our normal contractors would work with,” said Coghlan.
Because of the pipe’ size and irregular shape, bigger more detailed equipment is needed, she said.
Under the advice of consultants AECOM, the city will hire a company to slip a liner into the pipes and inflate it to create a pipe inside a pipe.
“Now that we’re working with these larger pipes, we can now look a little farther outside and say, ‘What are they doing in Eastern Canada, and what are they doing in the States, and are there people willing to come here and help us based on the technology that they’re using elsewhere?”
Last week, council approved a new 30-year capital budget, which includes $9.2 million to rehabilitate the brick mains between now and 2030. The pipes are located in Fairfield, James Bay, Fernwood and Burnside Gorge.