On the front lines of COVID-19 prevention, Ottawa’s water distribution crews keep the taps flowing so the rest of us can wash our hands

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

In the fight against COVID-19, the public’s marching orders are clear.

Stay home.

Wash your hands frequently.

But what does it take to keep the City of Ottawa supplied with clean water during a pandemic?

As a supervisor of the city’s water distribution branch, Jon Freda and his team are playing a crucial role in the response to COVID-19. They’re making sure our water infrastructure continues to deliver safe, clean water.

He says the days are very different than in normal times.

“Normally a lot of the work we do is focused on proactively maintaining the city’s water infrastructure,” Freda said. “During this state of emergency, we’re only sending out crews to deal with urgent issues, like leaks and watermain breaks.”

Work continues on proactive maintenance projects.

“During the pandemic, our focus is on making sure there are as few disruptions to service as possible,” Freda said. “We were really lucky this winter and didn’t have very many watermain breaks, but we’ve had 10 in the last month, so it’s definitely been busy.”

And right now, with a pandemic, it’s incredibly important that to keep taps running so people can wash their hands, wash dishes, do laundry, etc.

Safety is paramount for work crews who now wear protective equipment, and make sure they travel to and from job sites solo, rather than having multiple people in the same vehicle.

Staff clean and disinfect vehicles before and after they’re used, and they are careful to maintain our physical distance while on site.

Access to water tops the list of services that are literally essential to human life and Fredo says his team takes pride in making sure people have reliable access to clean water during this crisis.

“It’s also been amazing to witness how talented and creative my team is. I’ve got staff at home doing some great research into how we can improve our work,” he said. “One is even teaching himself to do certain repairs on our equipment and monitoring devices so we can keep more of that work in-house in the future.”

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