Council’s utility committee has pressed the drainage branch into doing a deep clean on the sewer system. They likely have hundreds of home owners pinching their nostrils supporting the idea.
“We’ve got to up our game,” Coun. Michael Walters said repeatedly about the stench that has hit many neighborhoods as something bad wafts up through the sewer system.
The problem, as best drainage engineers can figure it, is in the large trunk sewer lines that make up a very small percentage of the entire 5,500 km system.
Most of it is fine, and is cleaned regularly, but the best guess is waste solids flow along with the water in the system then drop down, stirring up the water to the point it’s almost like white water rapids, and that stirs up the air, and that smelly air has got to go somewhere.
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Todd Wyman, a director with city planning, confirmed that those deep sewers, as far as 60 to 200 feet below the surface haven’t really been cleaned.
“Is it because of access or the fact that the sewer is that deep that we just can’t get access to it,” he asked. “We really need to work with our partners in the operation, and potentially industry, to find out what is out there now from a modern perspective that we can take a look at approaching this a different way.”
Chris Ward, the manager for drainage, said they’ve tried to look at them with cameras, using a cable and winch system that drags a camera along a one kilometer stretch from manhole cover to manhole cover. But that’s not always doable. They’ve even lost a camera when a cable snapped.
They’ve also used a bucket system to scrape out what they can.
That deep clean will be the short term solution. Long term they want to build a vent system so they can direct the foul air to a tower where they can control it.
“In terms of the sewer systems, we have to release the air from the sewer systems or there will be some catastrophic event below ground,” Ward told the councillors.
This proposed vent would be high enough so resident noses won’t notice.
“Manage where it comes out, and then equalize that pressure so it’s coming out at the right locations, or we know where we can kind of get it out of the system and if it’s centralized then we can look at trying to control the odours that are emitted from that,” Wyman said.
Walters said he’s gotten plenty of complaints including one particular one at 106 Street and 34 Ave.
“The experience that I’ve heard from people is they won’t go in their back yards at certain times of the day,” Walter said. “It’s putrid enough that people have complained about it extensively.”