UPDATE: Bridgwater Forest Fountain

One of the iconic features of the Neighbourhoods of Bridgwater, are the stunning fountains located in Bridgwater Forest, Bridgwater Lakes and Bridgwater Trails. Nothing compares to the soothing sound of water bubbling from a fountain! But – operating fountains in a harsh climate like Winnipeg is definitely a challenge. Changing temperatures from +30 to -40, ensuring all the hoses and fountain heads have no water sitting in them before freeze up, and soil conditions that move during freezing and thaws are some of the greatest tests a fountain will face! In addition, if a fountain is not initially constructed with the utmost care given to the foundation, there will be ongoing issues. I am afraid, after years of investigation, this is the situation with the Bridgwater Forest Fountain.

A bit of history:

  • 2012:  Responsibility of care and maintenance for the fountain was transferred to the city in 2012.
  • 2013:  The fountain’s warranty expired – and then the fountain quit working. I’m told there was significant debate on who would fix the fountain – Manitoba Housing or the City of Winnipeg.
  • 2015:  Having just been elected in Oct 2014 – I set out to get the fountain up and running. There was month of back and forth discussions between Manitoba Housing and City Parks Department as to who would fund repairs. I gathered a high-level estimate of the cost from Parks Department, that something in the range of $100K would provide enough funding to investigate issues. Looking back I have no idea how they came to that estimate, when they were not clear on the issues.
  • 2016:  I secured $100K in the City budget to initiate repairing the fountain. I worked with Manitoba Housing and secured some additional funding assistance in repairing the fountain.
  • 2017:  Repair work started and it was determined that the ‘holding tank’ (located near the pump house) had sunk and the pipe connecting the holding tank to the fountain – had broken away therefore ending the flow of water. Extensive work occurred to restore the tank from its sunken location and to fix the connecting pipes to the fountain. During this time of repair, the fountain jets (heads) were stolen and remaining ones vandalized. Special jets had to be order from an overseas supplier. Jets were installed and fountain started running again. BUT a few weeks into the fountain running – another leak in the pipe was discovered – and repaired. Also during summer of 2017, general maintenance occurred removing overgrown shrubs and weeds, and the entire bricking at the base of the fountain was reset as the bricks had all shifted – most probably due to water leakage shifting the underground.
  • 2017 – 2018 Winter: Water consumption records were analyzed and the department believed there was still a leak somewhere due to volume of water being used – as compared to what a fountain manufacturing company stated what volume of water use should be.
  • 2018:A firm was hired by the Parks Department to analyze the fountain to determine if the structure was intact and things weren’t ‘sinking’ causing more shifting and cracks / broken seals – which would cause leaking and an increase in water use. Throughout the summer the fountain was on and off for very short spurts for testing. The result was that a number of leakage points were found and repaired but it was not determined if the fountain was sinking.
  • 2019: The fountain operated but there was high water consumption being reported in the tracking system, indicating ongoing leakage.
  • 2020: Coloured dye was added to the fountain, and regular testing was conducted to see if the dye diluted due to a leak. You can see in the photo – the dye diluted indicated there was still a leak. Pressure tests were done on the lines and the results indicated pressure was being lost as the psi was always declining.
  • 2021: This fall the departments are going to undertake a preliminary excavation to determine the next steps for repair. Once this investigation is complete, the next steps will be determined.

The parks and municipal accommodations department have concluded that the Bridgwater Fountain was so poorly constructed that additional leaks may continue to occur over time. The departments now believe the newest leak is under the large bowl.  The departments tell me no drawings of record are available, and that the public service has reached out to the original contractor for their recollection of the underground structure. They are also trying to determine who was the project engineer for the structural and mechanical design of the fountain.

It’s beyond frustrating, that City staff took responsibility for a fountain, yet didn’t oversee construction, or ask for drawings, etc. back when the fountain was being constructed. Clearly no ‘process’ was in place by the departments. I can assure you, process is now in place for fountain handoffs Lakes and Trails. Also, extended warranty periods are now placed on those fountains, and all records are being kept.

In summary, the department tells me two options can be considered for the Bridgwater Forest Fountain:

 Option 1: Fountain refurbishment

  • Remove the bowl either through lifting it or boring to it and digging around the side of it to repair the lines. This may require a crane and/or significant other equipment. Since an older style line was used in the original design, it was also recommended that high density polyethylene lines be installed throughout the project.

Option 2: Redevelop the site to another use

  • Convert the fountain to a large flower planting
  • Remove one or all of the fountain bowls and keep as a plaza

I want to thank the departments for their work to date. I have been very persistent with them and have expressed strong frustrations on why we are 7 years in with so many departments involved and still no solution. Perhaps sometimes too strongly – and thank them for their patience.

It is clear to me the fountain was not constructed with a proper foundation which presents ongoing problems.  Currently, there is approximately $70, 000 remaining in the project budget. The departments do not yet know if there is sufficient funding to accomplish ‘Option 1’. Following their excavation work this fall, they will determine a scope of work, methods, and cost estimate before they proceed with any additional work.

I’ve not asked what the cost of a replacement fountain would be, but probably in the hundreds of thousands as the existing bowls would have to be excavated and a massive rework would have to occur. I will keep residents updated and please know before ANY decision is made on removal or repurposing, I will reach out and we will have extensive conversations.  As always I welcome any feedback  you have.

2022:   City hires a structural engineer do a comprehensive investigation of the fountain – See Fountain Rehabilitation Study  There are five options presented in the rehabilitation. There are five options presented in the rehabilitation.

2023:   This spring, the Fountain Rehabilitation Study was presented to myself, and residents immediately backing on to the fountain. We determined to have the City investigate a sixth option – that being reaching out to a plumbing contractor to trench under with a camera to have a close up look at the pipe that connects the tank to the fountain to see if the pipe could be replace. Today (June 19th) we received this information:

  • The plumbing contractor scoped the fountain and his camera was able to distinguish fractures as well as horizontal cracks and areas of “squished/oval shaping” of the supply line.
  • This suggests that the supply line has deformed and cracked due to ground pressure – likely from over-zealous backfill compaction.
  • This confirms our earlier investigation and provides the new information of cracks as well.
  • He also noted that the tank has shifted.  This is likely due to water leakage as the return pipe was sheared at the tank joint.  This too would need to be corrected if the fountain is to resume regular operation.  The contractor hopes to come back this week with a larger camera to scope the whole run of the return pipe and confirm the extent of breakage and cracks.  He was not able to get through with his smaller camera.  More information will be sent.