Water main break leaves Halifax hospital complex without water, surgeries cancelled

By Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — A second water main break in as many days at a large hospital complex in Halifax forced the cancellation of some surgeries Thursday, while leaving no running water for drinking or for flushing toilets.

Health authority spokesman John Gillis said in an interview that the latest break occurred just after midnight and initially left the buildings without heat, which has since been restored.

“They (firefighters) have made a temporary water supply through a hydrant here, so the boilers are back on,” said Gillis.

The break followed another on Wednesday afternoon. Both breaks affected the Halifax Infirmary and the Veterans Memorial Building, which has long-term care beds, as well as the Abbie J. Lane building, which provides mental health and addictions services.

Nova Scotia Health said late Thursday afternoon that water had been restored to the Infirmary but people were asked not to drink it.

“Three days of water testing will be required before tap water can be considered drinkable,” it said in an update.

The first problem occurred in a pipe that runs through the nearby steam power plant for the facilities. It had just been repaired at around 8 p.m. Wednesday, when more trouble occurred a few hours later, Gillis said.

“The same pipe but different location. It wasn’t a failure of the first repair, and that’s brought us back to square one.”

As a result, elective and non-urgent surgeries have been cancelled at the Infirmary, resulting in ripple effects at other Halifax-area hospitals. Gillis said some surgeries at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax and the Dartmouth General Hospital are being rescheduled to accommodate urgent cases that would normally be done at the Halifax Infirmary.

Gillis said seven surgeries were postponed on Wednesday, while two others planned for the Infirmary were done elsewhere.

The emergency department at the Infirmary remained open Thursday, but patients with non-urgent needs were being asked to visit other facilities in the city or seek out virtual care.

“The goal is to have as few people in the building here as we can given the conditions,” Gillis said. 

Officials have made portable handwashing stations and portable washrooms available in the affected buildings.

Health Minister Michelle Thompson told reporters at the legislature that there was no word on what caused the pipe to rupture.

“I think there’s deferred maintenance over a period of time and water pipes are always difficult to anticipate,” she said, adding that “these things happen in facilities.”

Thompson said she was confident that the health authority’s backup plans were serving the needs of patients, although under difficult circumstances.

“I want people to feel assured and I know that they are working hard to correct it,” she said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2024.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today