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Morinville, Alta. business seeks compensation following non-essential water use ban

A car wash company in Morinville is calling on utility company EPCOR for compensation following the ban on non-essential water use.

The co-owners of Big City Auto and Truck Wash say their sector was unnecessarily targetted for a problem that was out of their control.

“I feel like EPCOR dropped the ball really badly,” co-owner Terrina Van Woerkom explained.

The ban was put in place following a pump equipment failure at the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant in southwest Edmonton. The facility provides water to about 90 communities surrounding Edmonton, including Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Beaumont, Fort Saskatchewan and Morinville.

EPCOR said a small amount of water entered the vault containing high-voltage electrical cables at the plant. The cables feed two 4,000-horsepower pumps that supply water into the distribution system.

In a press conference Friday, EPCOR thanked car washes and laundromats specifically for their tentative closure.

“I would especially like to thank the owners and the workers of car washes and laundromats who have been hit the hardest, senior vice-president of EPCOR water services Frank Mannarino said.

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“We appreciate the sacrifices that you made this week to help us keep essential water supplies flowing through the whole region.”

According to the co-owners of Big City Auto and Truck Wash, they lost about $9000 for a three-and-a-half-day closure.

“It’s a big hit. We rely on the weather for our busy time so it becomes a big hit when you lose that window,” co-owner Rudy Van Woerkom said.

“Some of the people who work in car washes and laundromats are usually lower wage earners so it hits a whole lot harder for any of those,” he added.

The couple said instead of selecting a few businesses, they should have provided alternative options.

“Can you run at half-time? Can you run at half capacity? They didn’t need to shut us down completely,” Terrina said.

The co-owners have had a difficult recovery period following COVID-19 restrictions, a break-and-enter back in the fall of 2023 and equipment damages following a medical episode of a patron driving into the facility.

“For those of you who don’t understand the consequences just take a minute and really think about the impact for us,” Terrina explained.

Terrina has been connecting with local car washes and laundromats who were hurt by the ban.

She’s in the process of creating a petition asking for compensation and is asking other businesses to contact her business.

Tim Cartmell is the chair of Edmonton’s utility committee. He said decisions can’t be made until the investigation ends.

“You rely on the services but I think you rely on the services with the understanding that they’re not perfect. That sometimes there is an interruption and we had a modest reduction for a few days,” Cartmell explained.

“I would have to understand how better how much this incident could have been foreseen and avoided and play that against how big this interruption was for some people,” he added.

Global News reached out to EPCOR for comment but they deferred their response to next week.

A full review of the incident will begin Monday.

— with files from Caley Gibson, Global News.


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