By Rhonda Dredge and Shane Scanlan
The “rumour mill” has been working overtime about the cause and effect of the water main which burst on the weekend of September 9, flooding the basement of 55 Swanston St.
The water damaged the building’s electrical system and, with some 40 businesses still unable to re-occupy the building, no one seems to know what the future holds.
One popular rumour is that it will be cheaper to demolish and start again. Another is that the vibration from Metro Tunnel Project excavation across the road in the City Square caused the problem in the first place.
But City West Water quickly exonerated the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority and more recently elaborated to CBD News that no work was being undertaken at the time the pipe burst.
City West Water general manager of infrastructure and delivery, Maree Lang, said: “No works were being done at the nearby Melbourne Metro Tunnel site on Swanston St on the evening of the water main burst.”
City West Water either doesn’t know or isn’t saying how the main in the footpath burst, but can expect business owners to line up with multi-million dollar compensation claims.
Ms Lang said a number of factors may have been responsible and the water authority was still conducting its investigation.
“Our current investigation takes into consideration a number of factors including the age, material and condition of the main, as well as external factors such as weather,” she said.
“Investigations of this nature are extremely complex given the depth of the pipe, the size, number and close proximity to other underground services and the inner city location.”
Building manager, Johan Fourie, said there was a meltdown of the electrical switchboard following flooding. “Luckily there wasn’t a fire. The brigade anticipated a huge calamity,” he said
There is so much work to be done, a specialist company has been employed to oversee repairs.
“We don’t know if there was a surge or what kind of negative impact there was. They have to check all of that when the switchboard is in operation,” Mr Fourie said.
City West Water points out that only the building management can deal with the electrics.
Jae Woo, owner of the Tropicana Juice Bar, was forced to evacuate the building, leaving bags of oranges behind the security fence.
He said he would be talking to the body corporate about compensation.
“It’s going to be full-on,” he said.
Tenants are now scattered around the city. Those who want visas to Scandinavia, Britain and India have to foot it a couple of blocks away and nearby office workers have been unable to get their healthy lunches.
Many of the small street-front businesses at the south end of Swanston St have now gone and tenants of nearby buildings are worried about the future of their expensive computer equipment should further accidents occur.