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Third-party agency to investigate Calgary water main break, city says

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Calgarians remain under water restrictions as repairs to a critical feeder line along 16th Avenue N.W. continue.

City officials announced a crackdown on violators, with significant penalties for those flouting the rules.

The Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) has taken more than 2,048 calls from Calgarians concerned others were breaking the rules.

As a result, 560 written warnings and 709 verbal warnings have been issued.

Only two tickets have been written so far.

However, CEMA acting chief Coby Duerr says the grace period is over.

"Going forward, unless there are mitigating circumstances, the direction to our peace officers is to proceed with ticketing," said Duerr, who reminded Calgarians the fine for violating water restrictions is a specified penalty of $3,000.

"With ongoing updates, media attention to this situation and the number of warnings given to date, it would be very difficult to believe that someone is still unaware.

"They can't claim ignorance if their sprinklers are running, their pool is filling or they're washing something outdoors on their property."

The restrictions apply to all of Calgary, including communities in the northwest whose reservoirs are still being filled by water from the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant.

Their water supply is ultimately redistributed through smaller lines to balance the load across the city in communities that cannot access water from the Bearspaw plant.

Two much-needed replacement pipe segments departed San Diego County on Monday.

Martin Coghill, San Diego County Water Authority's asset manager, says a former colleague now working in Calgary reached out to see if the California county could help.

"Thankfully, we're able to release two of these pipes to the City of Calgary, who need it more than we do," Coghill said.

"I can only imagine what they are going through."

The pipes, signed with well-wishes from county water crews, are expected to arrive in Calgary on Tuesday night.

However, Michael Thompson of the City of Calgary's infrastructure services department cautioned installation won't be immediate.

"The preparation will take some time," Thompson said.

"We have to sandblast them and epoxy them prior to installation."

Some Calgary residents have taken to social media to question why the city needed to source sections of the pipe from San Diego when Alberta is home to some of North America's top oilfield pipeline supply companies.

The city says they contacted multiple energy industry players, but none had the specific large-diameter pipe rated for transporting potable water.

It says it would have taken longer to source the pipe and upgrade it to the required specifications.

At the same time, the City of Calgary has launched a third-party review of the break.

David Duckworth, Calgary's chief administrative officer, says it will investigate the cause of the pipe failure and why it wasn't discovered before a catastrophic failure of the line.

"The review will be guided by an expert panel from academia, the water industry, water utilities management engineering and government entities focused on infrastructure and resilience," Duckworth said. 

(With files from Bill Macfarlane and Michael Franklin)

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