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Municipality issues boil water advisory after pipe bursts

Rimrock cleans up, closes early after water floods restaurant

The Rimrock Café has been forced to close down early for the fall shoulder season after a break in a municipal water pipe sent water flooding into the upscale restaurant.

"Now it’s a matter of cleaning it up, drying it out," said the Rimrock’s co-owner Bob Dawson, surveying the water damage on the first floor of his restaurant on Tuesday afternoon.

Around midnight on Monday night, a municipal water pipe located up a dirt road behind the restaurant just north of Creekside burst, sending water gushing down into the parking lot and the ground floor of the restaurant.

Municipal crews have determined the pipe burst due to poor workmanship more than 20 years ago when the pipe was first installed.

"It was improper workmanship or installation of the pipe that was done in approximately 1982," explained Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works with the municipality.

"The pipe went over a little bit of a hill and as opposed to blasting the rock that was there and laying the pipe flat, (they) actually laid it on the rock and bent it a bit. And just over the years the stress of that pipe sitting on bedrock at a bit of an angle, caused it to finally give way."

The restaurant was buzzing with activity on Tuesday afternoon as restorers ripped soggy dry wall and insulation from the lower lobby walls and Rimrock staff used cell phones to try and contact patrons with reservations to cancel their dinner dates.

In the restaurant area on the second floor, which remained safe from the floodwaters, file folders were spread across tables, drying out.

"Lucky we caught it," said Dawson simply.

Though lucky in some respects Dawson pointed out that the flood will result in lost business, and as a result, the food in the restaurant would most likely be spoiled too.

He had yet to fully investigate the wine cellar and was worried that some bottles may have lost their labels for good, and may not be identifiable.

Dawson received a phone call in the early hours of Tuesday morning alerting him to the flood.

When he arrived on the scene in the middle of the night, he couldn’t get into the restaurant through the front door because there was too much water.

When he got in through the back door he discovered the water on the first floor of the restaurant was almost knee deep. It had seeped into the lobby, washrooms, office, wine cellar and one prep kitchen.

Outside, the parking lot had turned into a lake, submerging the parked cars almost up to their windows. The water was shut off in the area as fire and municipal crews got to work dredging the scene as quickly as possible.

A second break in the system happened in Alta Vista roughly three hours after the first break. This second break affected Lakeside Park.

"In response to the first (break near the Rimrock) we were making some operational changes to the system and there was some unusual pressures put on the distribution piping and the part that failed, the weak link in the chain basically, was a very corroded joint in the pipe," said Barnett.

He described the bolts as completely rusted off from the fitting that held the pipe together.

"There’s no indication that this is the sort of thing that is commonplace throughout the distribution system," he added.

"These were a couple of isolated areas and it’s not uncommon for pipes to fail after being in the ground for 20 or 30 years."

After contacting the provincial Ministry of Health, the municipality issued a boil water advisory for all areas of Whistler except Function Junction to the south and Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates in the north.

Those areas are connected to separate water systems.

The advisory was put in place as a precautionary measure. At press time on Wednesday evening, municipal officials said the boil water advisory would be lifted by Thursday afternoon, after the system had been flushed and repaired.

On Tuesday afternoon the bulk of the water was gone, leaving behind a parking lot of thick sludge as the garbage bags from the damaged Rimrock piled up outside.

Dawson had planned to close the Rimrock Café for the shoulder season on Oct. 23 for roughly one month.

The restaurant is now closed and Dawson is hoping to reopen on Friday, Nov. 19 as originally planned. The three-course special for $39.95 will be back when the doors open next month.

Barnett estimated the cost of the damages is roughly $10,000 for the Alta Vista break, which has been fixed already, and between $15,000 to $20,000 for the break near the Rimrock.

It will take another couple of days to fix the broken pipe near the Rimrock. In the meantime, homes and condos in the area have temporary water hook ups.