Lift station failure a concern for Bay Roberts’ council

By Mark Squibb/December 30, 2021

During the November 23 public meeting, council discussed two separate issues facing Bay Roberts council as it relates to the community’s wastewater lift stations.

The Shoreline had previously reported on council’s concerns with items such as Swiffer pads, disinfectant wipes, and mop head strands being flushed by residents and clogging the system after a weekend malfunction of a Shearstown Road lift station.

Director of Public Works Sean Elms said that weeping tiles, a porous pipe that collects and drains water, also add to the problem if they discharge water near or into lift stations. He said the outflow from weeping tiles add “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.

But maintenance issues may have also played the part of a recent lift station failure.

Councilor Silas Badcock inquired as to a warning light bulb that needed to be replaced at the lift station. Elms said the bulb was not replaced, as it was not seen as a priority by the operator, because it had to do with the float and not the flow system.

“The float wasn’t fixed, so it would have been on twenty-four hours a day, so that’s why he never fixed that one,” said Elms. “When the floats get fixed at the lift station, the light will be installed.”

Badcock asked that if the float wasn’t working but the light stayed on, would it not serve as a reminder?

Elms said the light can flash all day, and the pump will still work, but the main problem is when the pumps get clogged.

“The lift station has a warning light on the station that turns on when one of two things occur: the floats are high or the pump has quit,” explained Town CAO Nigel Black in a follow up email. “In this particular station, the floats and lights were known to be out of order and they need to be fixed at the same time. Fixing the light without fixing the floats would have meant the light would be on at all times…therefore not providing a warning as it is intended.”

Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour raised a concern. “This lift station is a problem one, we’ve known that for a while,” said Seymour. “And I see what you’re saying about all this crap going into the sewer. But that’s not unique to this area, this stuff is going on at all lift stations.”

Seymour continued to say that there was no rain over the weekend the event happened, and that weeping tile is installed all over town.

“They know that that lift station causes problems, and they count on that red light as a warning. Yet no warning came. Now, you’re saying that the light is dependent upon the float?”

Elms explained that it’s usually floating water that trips the light. But again, as the floats were broken, the light would constantly switch on and off regardless of whether water was floating.

“So, we knew the bulb was gone, and we didn’t replace it because…? I’m just trying to understand why we didn’t replace it,” asked Seymour.

Elms said again that it wasn’t replaced because the float was broken. Seymour asked how long the float had been broken. Elms said he could find out.

“The minute we found out that float was broke, we should have been replacing the bulb, because we know it’s a trouble station,” asserted Seymour. “It just makes sense that it should have been done.”

In addition to the motion made by Badcock that the town hold an awareness campaign about things that shouldn’t be flushed, council voted unanimously to 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 them makes it hard for staff to stay on top of the work. Mayor Walter Yetman claimed it was the most of any town in the province.

Elms, meanwhile, said some lift stations have been switching to an ultrasonic scope, which may act as a better warning system than the bulb.

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