Take Care of Our Sewer System!

“Take care of our sewer system!” Sean Elms, Director of Public Works and Technical Services.
I think it is important that everyone understands the basic principles of how a sewer system operates. Everything that goes down a sink, toilet or bathtub enters the Bay Roberts sewer system and travels kilometres of pipe before it eventually leaves through the end of the system called an “outfall”. The sewers journey to get to this outfall has to encounter structures called “lift stations”. Sewer pipes are laid in such a way that the slope decreases gently allowing gravity to pull the sewage through the pipes. As the pipes get lower and lower they strike a low point where gravity will no longer allow the sewage to flow. It is at this point that a lift station is required to pump the sewage up to an higher elevation where a new set of pipes allow the gravity force to begin the downward flow to the next lift station. This system of up and downs continue until the sewage leaves through the outfall. Bay Roberts currently operates 35 lift stations which are located throughout the sewer system.


Pump being cleaned out (notice the metal fork in the bottom right corner lying on the glove)


Using a bar to try and clear the clog

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, but these lift stations are vital to ensure our sewer system runs both effective and efficiently. An example of the unnecessary costs associated with lift stations can be seen from a recent repair. Upon site visit it was very evident as to why the lift station was not working, when we removed the pump from the lift station it was blocked with sheets used for cleaning floors. These sheets stopped the propellers from being able to turn properly and the ability to push the sewage further down the system. The problem was not fixed once the clog was cleaned, because as soon as the pump was put back in place and started, it stopped almost immediately. It was clogged again with these white cleaning sheets. After numerous times of taking the pump up, cleaning it out and putting it back in place the lift station was finally operational.
Only moments after the original lift station was pumping the next lift station in the system stopped working. Once we opened this lift station and looked in, what did we find, almost two full feet of hardened fat. It covered the entire surface of the lift station. This fat was hampering the floats from working properly. Another few hours went by before the pumps and lift station were cleaned, and fully operational.
The unnecessary cost to the town of Bay Roberts on this day alone was an additional $40,000. This amount was not included in the yearly maintenance budget. I thought to myself, why were so many cleaning sheets and so much fat in the sewer system. It does not really matter why it was in the system because that is in the past, but in moving forward I think it is important that everybody understand how important it is that only appropriate things are put down our sinks, toilets and bathtubs.
The only thing that should be flushed down a toilet is toilet paper. Paper Towels and even facial tissue paper should not be put in the toilet. Just because an item says flushable does not mean it should be put in a toilet. Often these items that say flushable do not degrade properly, which in turn, can then aide in sewer blockages.
This is only a small sample of the unnecessary costs that the town is required to pay to keep the sewer system operating and these unnecessary costs can well exceed $100,000 a year. These costs are totally avoidable, BUT only with the help of the residents. If all the residents of the beautiful Town of Bay Roberts all do their part and take care of our sewer system by only placing toilet paper in them then these unnecessary costs can be used for other items throughout the Town.

Sean Elms Director of Public Works and Technical Services