Tap intentionally left running in Winnipeg city hall washroom for over a year as employees work from home

A tap in the basement of Winnipeg City Hall has been deliberately left running for nearly as long as the COVID-19 pandemic has lasted in Manitoba.

Coun. Shawn Nason (Transcona) raised the issue of the flowing faucet at Thursday’s council meeting, saying it has poured the equivalent of three Olympic-sized swimming pools down the drain.

“If a 50-year-old building requires taps to be on 24 hours a day, we have some serious issues,” Nason told reporters after the city council meeting. 

The tap is in the men’s washroom in the basement of city hall. The handle on the faucet has been removed to prevent anyone from turning it off, and the tap is fully open.

It was turned on shortly after most City of Winnipeg employees started working remotely at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant there were fewer people using the sinks, toilets and water fountains. That left more standing water in the building’s pipes.

“Maintenance staff have been flushing out water suspended in the pipes of the council building in order to improve water quality for remaining daily occupants,” a city spokesperson said in an email.

“This is needed because the reduced occupancy has led to more stagnant water in the plumbing, which increases the chances of lead traces in the water and chlorine dissipation.”

Staff are testing the water in the building to see if lead trace levels can remain below the threshold for drinking water.

“But it’s expected that the process of flushing the pipes at the Council Building will need to continue until occupancy levels return to normal levels,” the spokesperson said.

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