Local News

Massive drill brought into London, Ont. for tunnelling under Wharncliffe Road

A more than 80,000-pound drill has been brought to London to drill under Wharncliffe Road as part of a nearly $7.4 million project.

The drilling is part of an overall project to replace, re-route, and increase sewer capacity in the downtown area. Ashley Rammeloo, London’s director of water, wastewater and stormwater, says the project will replace 800 metres of trunk sewer in total.

“We’re increasing the capacity, which allows for infill development in the downtown, accommodates housing targets, and also will provide more capacity for wet weather flows, so we’re reducing overflows to the Thames River,” Rammeloo said at the construction site Tuesday.

The project will also tie into the West London Dyke reconstruction, Rammeloo says.

“The existing trunk sanitary sewer is down closer to the river and it’s in a spot that’s not great in terms of access. It needs to be increased in size, so, moving it during this project also gets it out of the way for the West London Dyke project.”

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The drill, which belongs to Erritt Construction and is worth over $2 million, will be used to drill 6 metres below the ground for a total length of 68 metres, right under Wharncliffe, from Cavendish Crescent to Riverside Park.

“Microtunneling is one of many trenchless technologies that the city uses to enable putting in the same infrastructure without the disruption to the road network, to people’s drives, to the park,” Rammeloo says.

The new pipe will be one of the largest in London once it’s complete.

Matt Poulias, the site engineer for Erritt Construction, explained the machine as part of a safety demonstration.

“The head will rotate, and we’ll send high pressure water through our feed nozzles inside the head of the machine and it’ll break up all the rocks, clay, other materials in front of the head,” Poulias said. “Then it gets ground up, slurry valves suck the water back to our separation plant which filters out everything, then recirculates the clean water back to the drill, then all the dirt, mud and rocks goes to our muck pit.”

London Mayor Josh Morgan was on site when the drill was lifted and said it’s great to “see the construction process in action.”

“Beyond that it’s a really critical project for the city. This project will triple our wastewater capacity from the downtown to the Greenway Treatment Plant,” Morgan said.  “It opens up residential densification in our downtown core and allows us to deal with heavy rainfalls in a better way.”

The entire project is anticipated to last until June 2025. No timeline was given on the drilling, but at a rate of around 15 centimetres per hour, it’s expected to take a few weeks. More information can be found on the City’s Get Involved website.

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