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Lift station woes dominates discussion at Kelligrews ecological group’s AGM

By Craig Westcott/December 16, 2021

The Kelligrews Ecological Enhancement Program, better known as KEEP, is low on members going into 2022, but at least those who are involved remain committed to the cause. The group also has money in the bank to keep working in the year ahead, according to the financial report presented at the annual general meeting held over Zoom last week.

Only six people attended the session, with two more regular members unable to attend because of other commitments. And while she tried to hand over the chairmanship of the group to one of KEEP’s younger members, long time head Karen Morris had little choice but to accept another term by acclamation, though she warned it will be her last one, albeit she intends to remain part of the group afterwards.

Before presenting her annual report, the chairperson gave the members a heads up on a meeting she scheduled last week with an official from the Town of Conception Bay South concerning damage to the wetland around the Lower Gully River from run-off coming from the town’s depot on Legion Road and the Gateway. “I’m hopeful that something might come out of it,” said Morris. “This has been going on a long time and we’re still seeing problems.”

Turning to her annual report, Morris noted the Town’s Conservation Corp Green Team was back helping KEEP this past year after a dormant period last year because of Covid. “So, we did get some work done this year following up on our survey work on the Lower Gully and including the Kelligrews River,” she said. “And also looking at the Lower Gully wetland, which is being damaged by all this run-off. I think we’re going to have to get a more in-depth survey of the Lower Gully and maybe that’s something that we’ll be talking about in the new year.” 

Regarding quarry developments, which are a perennial concern for KEEP, Morris had some good news. “The Town had development notices for two different quarries, KEEP responded, as did many others, and the Town denied both of them, which was very good,” Morris said. 

The province needs to improve regulations around quarries, Morris added, because companies are still walking away leaving a mess.

Another problem that came to KEEP’s attention last year during the Town’s annual spring cleanup was discharge from a lift station on the Kelligrews River. 

“The lift station on Pond Road had evidently overflowed, because all you could see on that grate was toilet paper,” Morris said. “It was disgusting and the toilet paper, etcetera, was all along the shore of the Kelligrews River.”

Morris said KEEP contacted the town and met with an official and a councilor and followed up with then Mayor Terry French and new Mayor Darrin Bent.

Morris said she also raised it at the last meeting of the CBS Parks Commission. “I’m going to raise it again, because it is a concern,” she said, adding the problem occurs whenever the lift stations are affected by heavy rain.

“From our understanding, the Town doesn’t keep a record of how often effluent is being discharged into the ponds when the lift stations are not functioning. That strikes me as a concern,” said Morris.

“It’s 2021 and they’re leaking raw sewerage into the environment, into the rivers,” said attendee Pete Roil, who was later elected to a director’s position with KEEP during the election of officers at the end of the meeting. “This is their dirty little secret. And I’d like you to ask them, how do the other smaller ones connect? Are they overflows of the overflow?”

Roil argued the Town knows when the discharges are likely to happen and shouldn’t rely on band-aid solutions after the events.

Morris said KEEP members need to figure out how to approach the issue and get more information. 

“Over at the Pond Road one, for them to put a (warning) light on and have the public call when the light goes on? That’s shocking,” Roil said. “So, the public is in charge of the public utilities? Literally, that’s our job? It makes no sense to me. And if that was known on a wider range of local people, a lot more people would be shocked too. This is like a 1930s solution. A little red light goes off and we’re supposed to pick up the phone and call them to tell them to do their job? It’s raw sewerage running into an open environment where people live. That’s all it is, and you can’t dress it up. It’s toilet paper and everything else that goes down the toilet showing up within a hundred feet of where people live.”

Morris suggested the group revisit the issue in January and try to find out if other lift stations have similar problems.

She surmised the problem at the Kelligrews River station may have to do with increasing development in the west end of CBS.

Turning to the financial report, Morris noted there was little financial activity last year because of Covid-19 restrictions. There wasn’t even a need to buy duck food, which KEEP had previously used to sell as a fundraiser for its activities. All told, KEEP’s total income for the financial year ending March 31, 2021 was just $82 against expenses of $595.80. The bank balance for the period finished at $21,680 in the black.

In the election of officers held afterwards, director Stephanie Pink accepted the role of treasurer, a three-year appointment, while Roil was coaxed into signing on for a one-year appointment as a director. “I’d like to be a thorn in the side of the pump station people,” he joked.

Other director positions went unfilled.

“I think this shows us how we really need to get some more people on the board,” Morris observed, “because we’re so strapped and when anyone has to go away, it’s hard for us to get quorum. It’s hard for us to also do our work if we’re such a teeny body.”

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