‘We’ve got to let residents know what to flush down the toilet’
By Mark Squibb/November 25, 2021
A lift station malfunction over the weekend has highlighted two separate issues facing Bay Roberts council as it relates to the town’s wastewater lift stations.
“It’s not the pump itself that’s failing, it’s the stuff that’s going in the system,” said Sean Elms, Director of Public Works.
Elms explained that when this particular lift station pipe was unclogged, a resident was on hand to watch town staff pull out mop heads, disinfectant wipes and Swiffer pads.
These are items that should never be flushed, but sometimes are.
Elms said fat poured down kitchen sinks, even if melted, is another culprit that can clog drains — and that pouring fat down sinks is a habit for some folks.
“My mother was one of them until I started dealing with sewer,” he half-joked. “You don’t run hot water with fat, or even cold. It just solidifies in the pipes.”
Heavy rain worsens the problem, said Elms, as it stirs up debris, making it easier for pipes to clog. Weeping tiles, a porous pipe that collects and drains water, also add to the problem if they discharge water near or into the station.
Elms said outflow from weeping tile adds “enormous” amounts of rainwater to the system. He would like to see a smoke test performed, which would identify which houses have weeping tiles that are affecting the lift station.
“I would put in a recommendation that you give the homeowners a year to disconnect their weeping tiles,” said Elms. Deputy Mayor Walter Yetman said the smoke test would be a part of budget discussions.
Yetman suggested a public awareness campaign, to which Elms agreed.
“We’ve got to get out there and let residents know what to flush down the toilet,” said Elms. “There’s only thing that should be going down the toilet, and that’s toilet paper. After that, there’s nothing that should go down the toilet.”
Yetman said the problem isn’t limited to one street or part of town, and that an awareness campaign the town put off years ago did help curb the problem — for a time.
The motion was made by Badcock that the town putt off another awareness campaign, and that council work on the maintenance schedule so that issues like this don’t arise again.
The town has 41 lift stations, and Elms said the sheer number of lift stations makes it hard for staff to stay on top of the work. Yetman claimed it is the most of any town in the province.
“We are the most pumped town in Newfoundland,” he claimed.
After some more discussion, council unanimously approved the motion.