Sinkhole update, boil water

by Jon Willing, originally posted on June 9, 2016


The city has issued a “precautionary boil water” advisory for three Rideau Street businesses as it continues to assess and repair the damage from the enormous sinkhole that opened up Wednesday morning.

The boil water advisory affects the Chapters/Starbucks location at 47 Rideau St., Holtz Spa next door at 45 Rideau and the CIBC building at 41 Rideau.

In a briefing to reporters, Mayor Jim Watson and other city officials said the cave in measures 40 metres long, 28 metres wide and up to five metres deep. Crews have been dumping concrete in since Wednesday night to stabilize the hole. More than 2,700 cubic metres of concrete have already been poured into the hole, entombing a van that had toppled in Wednesday as well as some other construction equipment that couldn’t be safely removed.

The cause of the sinkhole is still unknown, but the city said the damage did not affect the adjacent Rideau station LRT tunnel under construction.

Hydro service has been restored and the city hopes gas service will be restored soon. The ruptured gas line has left many businesses, including the nearby Chateau Laurier hotel, without hot water.

An OC Transpo bus carrying 40 to 50 people had passed over the site minutes before the collapse, which occurred at about 10:40 a.m. Wednesday.

Roads are still closed in the area, including the normally busy intersection of Rideau and Sussex. Watson said it could be “two to three” weeks before bus service resumes on Rideau Street. The road was already closed to all traffic except for buses and taxis. Buses have been rerouted onto the Mackenzie King Bridge.

The sinkhole meant more bad news Thursday for some businesses in the Rideau Centre.

A little after 9 a.m. an official from Ottawa Public Health arrived and ordered small restaurants in the Rideau Centre to close because their water may be contaminated.

“It’s very difficult,” said Umut Ozerkan who owns Michel’s Bakery Café. He said the loss from closing Wednesday and Thursday will cost him $5,000 to $6,000.

The bakery counter was loaded at the time with croissants, salads and sandwiches. Pots of coffee were full.

“Ninety per cent of the pastry is going to go to the garbage” he said. Salads and sandwiches were headed for the garbage too. And he hasn’t been told whether he can reopen Friday.

“Our rents are very high here,” and one bad day can make or break a full month’s business, he said.

Heavy equipment has surrounded the Rideau Street sinkhole overnight as the long job of repairing the gaping hole begins.

Already workers are underground, appearing and disappearing through a hole near the sinkhole’s west side.

The street, north and south sidewalks and businesses on both sides of Rideau remain closed from Sussex Drive to Dalhousie Street.

The Rideau Centre is mostly open. Passengers getting off buses on the MacKenzie King Bridge can enter the Centre but can’t cut all the way through it to Rideau on their way to work.

The Hudson Bay and the pedestrian overpass are closed.

Some traffic lights in the area are still out and police are directing traffic.

Meanwhile, getting in and out of downtown Ottawa isn’t going to be pretty this week.

All information below is from the City of Ottawa website.

The sinkhole on Rideau Street will mostly push east-west traffic to Laurier Avenue.

The Mackenzie King Bridge is now open to all traffic.

Driving west on Rideau, motorists will need to hang a left on Waller or Besserer street to get to Nicholas Street. From there, it will take a right onto Laurier, then a right onto Elgin and a left onto Albert Street to find an escape out the west end of downtown.

The following road closures are in place:


  • Rideau Street/Wellington Street eastbound is closed between Elgin Street southbound and Dalhousie Street
  • Rideau Street/Wellington Street westbound is closed between Dalhousie Street and Mackenzie Boulevard
  • Colonel By Drive/Sussex Drive is closed between Daly Avenue and George Street
  • Elgin Street northbound is closed between Albert Street and Rideau Street
  • Colonel By Drive northbound is closed at Main Street
  • Mackenzie King Bridge between Waller Street and Elgin Street is closed to general traffic for the peak period to accommodate transit movement.

Anyone trying to access downtown via Colonel By Drive will meet a detour at Main Street.

Finding a way to access a bridge to Quebec on the east side of Parliament Hill could be tricky since no one could access Sussex Drive from Rideau Wednesday afternoon. Outaouais residents heading home from Ottawa’s Parliamentary precinct might consider using the interprovincial bridges west of the Hill.

Now might be a good time for people to consider biking to work or shifting their work schedules to avoid the rush-hour traffic crunches exacerbated by the Rideau sinkhole.

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