Un­treated sewage spills into LaPlanche River

Fol­low­ing equip­ment fail­ure re­lated to heavy rain


An es­ti­mated 25,000 cu­bic me­tres of un­treated sewage made it into the LaPlanche River fol­low­ing an equip­ment mal­func­tion that ren­dered all three pumps at Amherst’s LaPlanche River sewer lift sta­tion in­op­er­a­ble.

The mal­func­tion on Aug. 19 was thought to be re­lated to, but not en­tirely caused by, a heavy rain­fall in the area that, ac­cord­ing to the Weather Net­work, to­talled about 65 mil­lime­tres.

Over­flow sit­u­a­tions do oc­cur from time to time dur­ing heavy rain­falls, but on this oc­ca­sion an air re­lease valve broke al­low­ing sewage to en­ter the lift sta­tion’s con­trol room via open­ings around elec­tri­cal con­duits that go be­tween the valve chamber and the con­trol room. Once in­side the con­trol room, the sewage dam­aged elec­tri­cal com­po­nents that reg­u­late the pumps, ren­der­ing them in­op­er­a­ble.

Be­fore the pumps could be restarted, new elec­tri­cal parts had to be ac­quired and the con­trol build­ing, lo­cated on the marsh north of the town, had to be cleaned and san­i­tized.

Re­pairs to one of the pumps was com­pleted on Aug. 22, al­low­ing the lift sta­tion to be brought back on line on that date. Re­pairs to the other two pumps were com­pleted two days later.

It is es­ti­mated that about 8,200 cu­bic me­tres of sewage per day is pumped through this lift sta­tion to the waste-wa­ter treat­ment plant in Fort Lawrence.

Nova Sco­tia En­vi­ron­ment was no­ti­fied on Aug 20, shortly af­ter the prob­lem was dis­cov­ered. The depart­ment was given reg­u­lar up­dates as the town worked to re­solve the is­sue.

“We’d like to thank the Pub­lic Works staff who have been working through very un­pleas­ant con­di­tions to clean the fa­cil­ity and make the re­pairs,” CAO Greg Her­rett said.

Amherst’s $12-mil­lion sewage treat­ment plant opened in 2012 and re­moved the last of the sewage from the town en­ter­ing the LaPlanche River.

Amherst worked since 1993 to re­move all its sewage from Dickey Brook, Et­ters Brook and the LaPlanche River. The Ter­race Street pump­ing sta­tion was built in 1995 while the LaPlanche River pump­ing sta­tion was built in 2003, re­mov­ing 85 per cent of Amherst’s waste­water from the river.

It was at the Ter­race Street pump­ing sta­tion where the equip­ment mal­func­tion oc­curred.

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