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Friday, September 10, 2010

The south end smells like shit

Harbour Solutions pumping station at fault

Posted By on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 1:47 PM

Halifax residents living in the vicinity of the sewage pumping station at Inglis and Barrington Streets are complaining of a foul sewage smell in their neighbourhood. Thursday evening, the odour was so strong that I could smell it two- to three blocks away, and while driving by in an air conditioned car.

Some months ago, Halifax Water manager Carl Yates told me that there were design errors related to the pumping station but, citing pending small claims suits from residents of a nearby apartment building who had their cars flooded with sewage, Yates would not disclose what those errors are.

A well-placed source, who is granted anonymity because he or she isn't authorized to speak, tells me that the design error is related to the pipe that discharges from the pumping station to the harbour---that is, to the "combined sewage outfall" portion of the station.

Properly designed, the pumping station is supposed to divert sewage from the south end into a huge pipe that stretches under downtown and leads to the sewage plant on Barrington Street, behind the casino. But because the sewage lines handle both sanitary (toilet) water and storm water, and because the pipe can handle only four times the "dry weather" flow, when it rains the overflow sewage is screened and pumped directly into the harbour.

My source tells me that this pipe is too small in diameter, which is what causes the back-up of sewage out of the station and into the basements of nearby apartment buildings. More, there is a one-way valve at the end of the pipe, which was probably intended to keep storm surges from backing up through the station, but which in dry weather times prevents harbour water from flushing out the smelly pipe. That's what's happening now, says my source.

I put all this to Halifax Water, and received the following response via email from spokesperson James Campbell:

Halifax Water currently has crews in the Barrington/Inglis St. area pumping out sewer lines that are believed to be the source of the odour. It is thought the odour is related to low flows in the lines over the last number of weeks due to the lack of rainfall. Last weekends rain would have moved some of the material along, but Halifax Water crews are checking to see if more material is still resting in the pipes and will try and remove the material with vacuum trucks.
I'll take that as a confirmation.

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