Ontario’s York Region is celebrating a new award that recognizes the innovative microtunnelling technology used for its Sewage System Forcemain Twinning Project.
The Peter J. Marshall Innovation Award was presented to York Region earlier in August at the 2022 Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Ottawa.
One of the primary reasons for the award was the York-Durham project’s lack of disruption to the public and environment through the use of tunnelling. According to environmental services firm GHD, the project’s lead designer, the tunnelling allowed teams to work up to 20 hours per day, reducing a project that could have taken several years, down to just 18 months.
The technology was used to tunnel seven different stretches for a total of 5.6 kilometres, making it one of the longest microtunnel projects in Canada’s history.
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Crews used an unmanned, laser-guided boring machine controlled remotely by an aboveground operator.
“Using state of the art, record-setting microtunnelling design and construction, York Region was able to minimize impacts to the community and natural environment, all while tunnelling through busy streets, trails and even crossing rivers,” announced York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson, in response to the award.
The tunnelling also allowed local leaders to preserve the Holland River floodplain, which cuts through the heart of York. The tunnel was slated to be built under 11 river crossings, three railway crossings, city parks, streets and more.
The tunnelling minimized road and land access closures, as well as the need to excavate and backfill.
The overall purpose of the project was to provide redundancy for aging infrastructure, improve system reliability and reduce environmental risk. Work crews accomplished these goals through building a new twinned forcemain to move wastewater from the Newmarket Pumping Station to the Aurora Pumping Station. Additionally, crews built a new twinned forcemain to move wastewater from the Bogart Creek Pumping Station to the newly-constructed York Durham Sewage System forcemain.
“By twinning the forcemain, we were able to build system resiliency, reduce greenhouse gasses and maintain essential water and wastewater services for the more than 1.2 million residents who call York Region home,” said Emmerson.
According to GHD, pre-stressed cylinder pipe segments were used within the precast tunnel sections for the purposes of constructing the new forcemain within the tunnel.
“While pre-stressed cylinder pipe segments are not new to forcemain construction, the placement and connection of pre-stressed cylinder pipe segments within the extremely long tunnel section posed a unique challenge,” GHD states in its project description.
Infrastructure Canada supported the project by providing $48 million in funding through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, recognizing the project’s role in addressing climate change risks.