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Residents’ misuse costly for Bay Roberts’ sewage system

The process of repairing lift stations and other parts of the sewage system can get quite costly for the town.
The process of repairing lift stations and other parts of the sewage system can get quite costly for the town. - Submitted

$100,000 yearly repairs avoidable, says public works director

BAY ROBERTS, NL —Sewage was a major talking point during a recent council meeting in Bay Roberts.

Tuesday night, Feb. 27, members of the Bay Roberts council reviewed an article provided by Sean Elms, director of public works for the town. The article detailed the long-term effects of improper use of sewage systems by residents, and just how costly repairs to remedy misuse can get.

In the article, Elms explained that the Town of Bay Roberts currently operates 35 lift stations, which act as a means of aiding sewage’s flow through the several kilometres of pipe before reaching the outfall. As Elms explained, anything that goes through a toilet, sink, or bathtub, will eventually make its way through these lift stations, and anything that isn’t meant to be there can be detrimental to the maintenance of the already costly equipment.

“These lift stations can be costly to install, and then when you add unnecessary costs to maintain them, it can result in exceeding the budgeted amount quickly,” he wrote. “These lift stations are vital to ensure our sewer system runs both effectively and efficiently.”

Elms pointed to a specific instance that took place recently, where repairs were required on a lift station that had stopped working. After visiting the site, it was discovered that the lift station’s propellers had been blocked by large sheets used for cleaning floors, ultimately stopping any sewage from being pushed further down the pipes.

However, work on the stations did not stop there.

“Only moments after the original lift station was pumping, the next station in the system stopped working,” Elms said. “Once we opened this lift station, what did we find? Almost two full feet of hardened fat. It covered the entire surface of the lift station.”

Cleaning and repairing these stations throughout this day cost the town an additional $40,000, which was not included in the annual maintenance budget.

Elms went on to explain he felt as though it was important for residents to understand these things, and to know what they should and should not be putting through a sewage pipe. He says that just because an item says flushable on the label, does not necessarily mean it should be flushed, insisting that only toilet paper and paper towels should be put through a sewage pipe.

“This is only a small sample of the unnecessary costs that the town is required to pay to keep the sewer system operating, and those unnecessary costs can well exceed $100,000 a year,” he wrote. “These costs are totally avoidable, but only with the help of the residents.”

After reviewing the article, as well as some attached photos, council agreed that spreading the message about proper use of sewage systems was very important. As a result, council is hoping to pursue a public awareness campaign to help keep residents informed.

“I think people need to know, you can’t be throwing mop heads and things like that through the pipes,” said Mayor Phillip Wood. “We should have (Elms’ article) posted online, through our website and social media pages, so residents can see just what happens. The only thing that should be flushed, of course, is toilet paper. Everything else just doesn’t dissolve, and our system is getting blocked - that can be very costly.”

Deputy Mayor Walter Yetman agreed, adding that he felt as though residents likely only know the environmental effects of improper sewage system use, and do not understand the impact it can have on the town’s budget as well.

“If we have to put this much money into repairing these stations, then that’s $100,000 less that could go into road repair, sidewalks, or playground equipment,” added Coun. Dean Franey.

On top of social media posts, the town hopes to incorporate flyers into the campaign as well, aiming to spread the word as much as possible.

chris.lewis@cbncompass.ca

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