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Running water access begins to return in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

People in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. should get their running water back after half the population was left with no running water due to a burst pipe Monday. (City of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu - image credit)
People in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. should get their running water back after half the population was left with no running water due to a burst pipe Monday. (City of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu - image credit)

Thousands of residents of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., who have been without running water since Monday after a major water-main break, were beginning to get it back on Friday morning.

The city warned residents to boil the water for one minute before consuming it and to delay running appliances that use lots of water to avoid overloading the newly repaired pipe.

"It's not easy but at least today we see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Mayor Andrée Bouchard.

Repair teams worked until 4 a.m. Thursday welding the pipes, said the city's director of infrastructure and water management, Guillaume Grégoire.

But the connected pipes had to be cleaned out before use, Grégoire told journalists.

Once the piping network is ready to go, the city, located about 40 kilometres southeast of Montreal, will gradually reopen the water supply network, but it says residents will have to keep boiling their water for one minute until Saturday and there is always the possibility that another pipe can burst.

"The network could have been weakened by the amount of valve manipulation done over the last 72 hours," said Grégoire.

"This is a very delicate operation."

The initial burst pipe left half of the city's population — about 56,000 people — without running water, with the other half under a boil-water advisory.

Schools will reopen Friday but they are asking students to bring water bottles in light of the boil-water advisory. There will be bottled water on hand for refills.

The Haut-Richelieu Hospital now has running water but is asking people to avoid the emergency room as much as possible as it slowly returns to regular operations. Ambulances are being redirected to Charles-Le Moyne Hospital.

Mayor Bouchard urged residents to use water sparingly until Friday to prevent excessive demand from overloading the system. She praised the work of emergency response teams and the patience of residents over the last few days.

"What I see are resilient citizens," she said. "The solidarity we saw in Saint-Jean is undeniable."

Two water distribution centres will remain open until 10 p.m. this evening.