New regulations impractical for attending emergencies, says water company

One of several water emergencies on Tallinn streets in 2018, this one happened on Paldiski highway in September.
One of several water emergencies on Tallinn streets in 2018, this one happened on Paldiski highway in September. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Tallinna Vesi, the utility company which provides Tallinn City with its water, has blasted new legal requirements that it install barriers and other traffic calming measures when attending roadside water emergences.

The new regulations, effective from January, require that any repair trench over a metre in depth and within 4 m of any public road require traffic barriers to separate the affected zone from traffic.

Tallinna Vesi has reportedly informed the ministry of economic affairs that the requirements are unreasonable.

The company pointed out that it is often not known how deep the trench should be excavated in order to gain access to an emergency pipe. Furthermore, with trenches over 2.5 m in depth work must again be halted and speed bumps installed, to futher calm the traffic, which would necessitate the use of cranes or other machinery, the company says.

Traffic disruption occurs even without the new regulations

Tallinna Vesi used the concrete example of a water-related emergency on Liivalaia in central Tallinn pre-dating the regulations coming into effect. The incident required the closing of one or one-and-a-half lanes and, by working in off-peak hours, the job was done within 12-16 hours, the company says. However, under the new regime, the same work would require three lanes being closed off, and speed humps being installed and deinstalled using a crane, which at an optimistic estimate Tallinna Vesi says would prolong the work by four hours, in addition to causing extra traffic disruption.

''If closing one lane on a Tallinn street caused delays, what will happen after January can only be guessed at,'' board member Alexander Timofejev wrote in a letter to minister of economic affairs Kadri Simson, it is reported.

''In the light of this, we would request that in cases both of emergency work needed within Tallinn city ad or shorter scheduled works, the regulation would contain special provisions that barriers not be required,'' he continued.

At least half a dozen incidents requiring emergency work from Tallinna Vesi in central Tallinn streets have taken place over the last six or seven months, usually due to burst water mains. Tallinna Vesi is required to attend to such emergencies up to the point at which a mains water pipe meets the water meter or connecting internal pipe system of a property. Its personnel also have to attend flooding incidents arising from heavy rainfall, something which the groundwater infrastructure seems to struggle to cope with, as happened in June 2018 when some common floodspots were closed to traffic for several hours.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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