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2012-05-31 at 16:22

Water receding

By Jamie Smith,
91.5 CKPRWin Lunch with Danny and Laura for up to 20 people! Enter here to win on Thunder Bays Best Music 91.5 CKPRClick Here!

Water in the city’s sewer system is starting to recede and the main pumping station will be accessible soon.

City infrastructure manager Darrell Matson said temporary pumps have given the city a 115 megalitre capacity, which has allowed for significant progress along with sandbagging efforts at the Atlantic Avenue sewage treatment plant. 

“There’s one area of the plant now which will be accessible for damage assessments and it is the main pumping station,” Matson said Thursday morning. “That is the critical component of a go forward position.”

“We are seeing the levels within those sewers actually starting to decrease and we’ve made about seven to eight feet of progress in the last 24 hours or so.”

While it’s good news, the city still needs people to continue conservation efforts by sending as little water into the sewer system as possible. The plant, which flooded Monday morning after a breach, still has a long way to go and the damage is still unknown.

“There is still water coming into that facility but we do not know where or how,” Matson said.

An Ontario Clean Water Agency specialist has been called in to help the city’s plan to enter the plant along with Thunder Bay Fire and Rescue. Matson said they don’t have a timeline yet for when the conservation request will be lifted but they do know when it would happen.

“When we have our main pumping station up and running at full capacity and it’s reliable then that’s the time we will reconsider removing the conservation asks,” Matson said.

While there have been calls for an outright ban on water usage, the city says it’s unnecessary right now.

“We aren’t expecting businesses to close and incur a financial hardship” city manager Tim Commisso said.

“A total ban on water right now is not something that we are asking for.”

As long as the weather is good and progress is being made it’s not needed Matson added.

“If the conditions worsen then we will step it up. We will look at bans or other conservation techniques that other communities have used under similar circumstances,” he said.


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ring of fire dude says:
Brand-spanking new state of the art sewage treatment plant and it's under water ! What a bad joke ! Someone's head should roll for this but there seems to be no accountability with our City Managers . If I were a Lawyer , I'd be trolling the East End taking names for a Class Action Lawsuit against the City .
5/31/2012 5:37:03 PM
john says:
Isn't it the water treatment plant that's new?
5/31/2012 6:29:29 PM
Me n My Opinion says:
They're both new. It's these two plants that make up the majority of the City's debt.
5/31/2012 9:46:34 PM
advocate says:
these things are built based on historic data and expectations. The unexpected is impossible to prepare for.
5/31/2012 6:42:26 PM
yoyoma says:
actually this was possible to prepare for. They teach it in road building. It's called a 25, 50 and 100 yr flood. Preached but seldom practiced
5/31/2012 11:23:07 PM
passlake says:
except this isn't a road. it's a sewage treatment facility.
6/1/2012 12:21:20 AM
yoyoma says:
well they taught us the exact same thing when building systems and infrastructure at lakehead Engineering
6/1/2012 7:11:21 AM
Swirly-Q says:
Those road building standards didn't keep the new Hwy 11/17 from washing out in several spots. You are aware that the highway is closed, are you not?

This was a significant rainfall event. You can't design for every possibility or else costs will go through the roof. They should have taught you in your courses at Lakehead that infrastructure design is a balance between cost and acceptable risk.
6/1/2012 9:01:46 AM
yoyoma says:
well, if you read the historical flood reports for the area, you would see that this is not the most amount of flooding this area has recieved, and therefore this should be taken into account when designing these systems. Yes you have to take in to account cost and acceptable risk, but you need to factor in what it will cost the city for repairs after an event like this. Historically it's happened in the past, and it will happen in the future. Spending more money in the begining can save you a lot in the end. Pretty simple stuff really. As for the road, that was a poor job done on those roads, that's pretty easy to see.
6/1/2012 5:23:54 PM
jubjub says:
Unexpected? How soon we forget what happened only five years ago.

Quoted from Gov't Ontario website:

"On June 6, 2008, more than 100 millimetres of rain caused localized flooding, road washouts and closures in areas surrounding Thunder Bay. Flood levels for the Whitefish River system were close to levels that are expected only once every 50 years. Flood levels for the Kaministiquia River exceeded those expected for once every century."

On Sept 8, 1977 the city received a record of 138mm - that is at least 3 major rain events within 50 years and I couldn't find stats for precipitation in the 80s or 90s. So what "year" limit are our systems designed for - a ten year event? With weather seemingly becoming more extreme I do hope the city steps up their preparedness.
6/1/2012 9:19:00 PM
brooky says:
Nice try but these events didn't take place before the city was already under a flood watch, making the recents events unique. Clearly we haven't seen anything close to this in our history. Unless youy can dig it up for us.
6/3/2012 12:56:04 AM
jubjub says:
On May 27, 2012 the City received 91.3mm, the previous week had 62.6mm for a total of 153.9mm.

On June 6, 2008 the City received 78.49mm, previous week was negligible but still caused significant wash-outs and property damage.

On October 23, 1996 the City received 151.38mm, the previous week had 50.8mm for a total of 202.18mm.

On June 25, 1982 the City received 114.5mm, the previous week had 13.97mm for a total of 128.47mm.

On Sept, 9, 1977 the City received 135.89mm, the following two weeks added another 80mm for a total over 200mm.

1968 and 1971 also had significant precipitation and flooding.

My point is that this recent rainfall was predictable and something the city should have been better prepared for as we have had similar and worse precipitation events in the last 30+ years.
6/4/2012 12:04:28 PM
brooky says:
Should everything be built at two or three times it's cost just in case a once in a several lifetime event should occur? We just might get an earthquake up here, so lets double the cost for seismic restraint. And wasn't there a tornado in Ear Falls a few years back? Better build everything to withstand that too. What if the Sleeping Giant slips into Superior tomorrow? Tsunami? Better make everything tsunami proof too. And God help us if a giant meteorite should happen to fall out of the sky and destroy our newly revamped city hall. I'll bet that all taxpayers are lining up right now to pay for all of these possibilites.

5/31/2012 8:15:47 PM
hotdog says:
As if Lawyers have ever solved a problem. All the lawyers in the world couldn't solve the problems at the waste water treatment plant. That is what is needed however. The details will come out over time and ultimately it will be blamed on a 150 year rain event. There is a breach in the influent tank that is spewing water into the pump room and submerging the pumps. It will take time and $$ to solve this problem.
5/31/2012 8:47:33 PM
cob says:
The main pumping station is about 35 years old. It has had some upgrades over the years. Before accusing anyone of wrongdoing, you need to know what caused the breach. If it was a structural failure that could not be anticipated, and that is what it would seem to be at this point, how can you blame that on anyone?
Now, as to why the flow into the plant can reach 10 times normal flow, that is the question that needs to be answered, and there is some blame to be attached to a few with respect to this. A high flow should not cause a structural failure, but it could result in localized flooding. The causes of such a high flow need to be rectified. I know where to start on these, just as I knew 16 years ago. They didn't listen then; will they now?
5/31/2012 9:32:59 PM
hotdog says:
One would think that an overcapacity situation would simply divert into the nearby river. Effluent however is now flowing into the pumping room and they are in a nightmare situation to try to drain the room to the point where they can see where the breach is. Just maybe something got into one of the pumps and blew a hole in the casing and then leaving a wide open hole for water to fill the room. It's all speculation at this point but the details will slowly trickle out over time I suspect.

One thing that seems obvious, is that there is a volume of information being witheld at this time.
6/1/2012 8:11:00 PM
edhtbon says:
The thing was hit with 16 times what it is supposed to handle you idiot. Try running any piece of equipment or system with 16 times its rated capacity or load... its going to fail. No rocket science there. There is nothing anyone, including the city, can do when that much water accumulates in one place in a short period.

I suppose, if your logic is correct, that people who saw their basements fill with flood water are solely at fault for their misfortune because their sump pumps didn't work/couldn't keep up. Nothing to do with approx. 20+ cm of rain hitting the within a few days.
5/31/2012 9:46:00 PM
swampyjeans says:
Cool. So why is there still sewage seeping up through my basement drain???
5/31/2012 5:47:09 PM
stiffedbybucky says:
5/31/2012 8:49:40 PM
advocate says:
Not a Hobbs fan. But he was out of town. When the flooding started, he came back. Not sure if he cut his trip short or not. Really do not care. He was back in town asap and that is respectful. He could not predict that this was going to happen.
5/31/2012 10:21:52 PM
edhtbon says:
He had to have surgery and had to go down to Toronto for it. That is why we have an acting mayor at the moment. Its not Hobbs fault, the timing just didn't work out that well, that's all. With the internet and everything we have today, I am sure he will be keeping up to date and on top of things while he is out of town.
5/31/2012 10:38:15 PM
alder30 says:
The plant is flooded because of the massive amount of rain the city had, not because it was faulty. Have you ever heard of a natural disaster???
5/31/2012 8:59:56 PM
tiredofthebs says:
Wow, it looks like we have a couple of expert commenters here. Why dont you let the professionals handle their job and you go back to making a living trolling the website looking for things to bitch about. Pumping systems aren't designed to handle 10 or 15 times their design limit. While the city may have to take some heat for this, they definitely aren't responsible. Mechanical failures happen when things are pushed to their limits.
5/31/2012 9:44:49 PM
Hockeyskates says:
The system broke. I agree that pointing fingers is not what is needed right now. Lets fix it and move on.

If it means we can't afford a new rink because of this, I am ok with that. People first.

6/1/2012 7:44:48 AM
tbay87 says:
I'm a bit confused by all of this. According to the city's website ( see "What’s the difference between a sanitary sewer and a storm sewer?") it sounds like Thunder Bay has a separate storm sewer system that is discharged directly into the lake.

If that's the case, why all the extra water at the sewage treatment plant? Was it from sump pumps pumping into the sanitary sewer? Or is the city's site just wrong?
6/1/2012 12:40:25 AM
ac807 says:
On the radio, the city has said they also have "mixed" sewers that are both sanitary and storm. I imagine these would be in the older areas. They are phasing them out but takes time as you have to dig up roads.
6/1/2012 7:46:12 AM
Hockeyskates says:
As far as I can tell, the storm sewers and the sanitary sewers are still connected. So the Sewage plant can get overwhelmed in a heavy storm.

Toronto had a similar system years ago. When there was a big storm, they just opened everything up, and dumped the raw human waste into the lake.

Everyone knew about it, and it made for some very unpleasant flotsam whenever I sailed into Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club, which is located beside one of the sewage treatment plants.

Eventually and at considerable cost, they managed to fully separate the two systems. We have to do the same thing.

And if it means pushing the new Hockey Arena off by 10 more years, then I am 100% OK with that.
6/1/2012 7:57:18 AM
nvjgu says:
tiredofthebs------ Are you kidding me. The professionals doing there job, under engineered that plant. I totaly hold the city responsible. Sewer backup is not an act of God. Some of these homes will have to be taken down. How do you clean 3 inches of black water sludge in someone's basement.
6/1/2012 7:19:00 AM
Hockeyskates says:

Advocate seems to be leading the Shills here: He said "you can't prepare for the unexpected"

A 30 year storm is something that they had prepared for, and the expectation of those storms are built into the system.

There was a breakdown in the system, the sooner we accept that, and stop both pointing fingers or defending the city, the sooner we can remedy it.

As far as the Mayor being out of town ? Who cares ? God help us if the only thing standing between our safety and oblivion is his worship, or city Council.
6/1/2012 7:36:48 AM
advocate says:
Did I say something that attacked anyone?

What is with the name calling?

6/1/2012 9:42:07 AM
northshore says:
Yeah, I have to agree with the people saying that someone screwed up with the sewage treatment plant. We had a lot of rain.... it's not like that was a hurricane that hit us. I used t live in Vancouver - they get hell of a lot more rain then that and they don't call it a natural disaster. The only disaster is that the plant couldn't hold up in anything other than good conditions and that's definitely not good enough.
6/1/2012 9:48:20 AM
Me n My Opinion says:
Things are built based on regional expectations. Vancouver doesn't build things with the expectation of winters like we have here, but if they ever did have one of our winters, they'd be screwed. Everything would freeze and break, and there'd be no place to put all the snow.

Likewise here in Thunder Bay, we don't build with the expectation of Vancouver's rain levels, or California's earthquake standards. But COULD they happen here? Sure, it just did - for the first time in 140 years. We can't build and maintain our infrastructure to handle the worst case of every single scenario. As someone posted above, you measure the cost versus the risk, and build accordingly. Build to handle an excess, but not necessarily a freak of nature. The plant was built to withstand 12 times it's regular capacity. Once that was surpassed, things broke. If it was only designed to handle double, then I'd agree it wouldn't be sufficient. But 12 times capacity seems to me to be pretty reasonable.
6/1/2012 3:08:08 PM
whodo says:
Mr Commisso get off your(as you treat it) pot of gold... OUR money from Tbay Tel needs to be spent on fixing what is essential and more important than a Mega Arena!!!
6/1/2012 11:51:26 AM
kbecker says:
To, stiffedbybucky,

Where was the mayor?!?! Having surgery in Toronto! Could you be more ignorant? PEOPLE, NATURAL DISATER! YOU CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH TO PREPARE! If an earthquake hit Thunder Bay and destroyed homes and building, are you going to blame the city and mayor for not bulletproofing the city from an earthquake? GET REAL!! Get a life and stop BLAMING PEOPLE AND GO OUT AND HELP!
6/1/2012 12:04:37 PM
Chris says:
I agree with construction firms helping out with the effort. I am unsure as to what is happening with larger organizations such as Tom Jones or other big construction/engineering firms but I would hope they are doing their service as they get enough of our city's business. I thought I heard on the video that only 2 larger firms have stepped up to the plate to help out. It is great to see the community coming together. Maybe everyone on the Sunshine list should donate $100 :) Off to make my next food and clothing donation and I hope everyone else is doing the same.
6/1/2012 12:41:16 PM
Johnny says:
time for a new mayor
6/1/2012 1:27:10 PM
Canuckman55 says:
having surgery is grounds for dismissal now?
6/2/2012 12:17:36 AM
yqtyqt says:
If this doesn't put our priorities straight, I don't know what will.

Fix the sewage system, vs. build a $100 million dollar arena. You can have residents with flooded basements, some left with destitution, some out in the street or worse. Or you can have a 6,000 seat arena, with mostly empty seats most nights.

Timmy, it's time you abandoned these "white elephant" dreams for reality. I know you cut your teeth in the Canada Games Complex which required huge tax dollars to keep afloat. But these are basic human needs versus flashy mega-projects. Surely. even you, with your MBA and accounting degree, can decipher and understand the difference.

My hat goes off to the staff struggling to keep an inadequate system working. My heart goes out to those left with nothing.
6/1/2012 3:26:15 PM
Johnny says:
Why are people arguing on this site, how about instead of complaining and crying we help each other... What is wrong with you negative people, grow up!!
6/1/2012 3:38:01 PM
westfort says:
The mayor is obviously having elective surgery (scheduled means elective) so he could have postponed it. This is MUCH more important. He found time to waste our money taking a large group of people to Japan on our dime...pretending to be big shots. Still waiting for the accounting on that one. do you know that people here aren't helping? I have family members who lost A LOT...I have been helping. It's called time management.

Also, if the city cares so much why are they giving the residents 10 days to make a claim and get the letters to the city. That's awful. People are living in sewage infested homes and/or are being severely inconvenienced and the city is telling them to get their letters in ASAP??

The floodway was built for a 100 year flood so why not the pumping station? It's common sense to overbuild something. Just because something is unlikely to happen, doesn't mean it won't.

Also, there is word that the pumps weren't working properly last Thursday. Hmmm?
6/1/2012 11:05:30 PM
TBDR says:
really? A good friend of mine waited a year to have knee surgery (elective but still necessary to regain full movement). Had he cancelled he could have had to wait another year.
6/3/2012 12:40:38 AM
barec says:
Scheduled doesn't necessarily mean elective here. If you live in Westfort as your handle suggests, you should know that. Emergency surgeries are done immediately, but if it's something that won't kill you right off, it's scheduled so people do schedule surgeries that will improve or prolong their life. The cost of free medical, but I'll pay the price.
6/2/2012 9:20:26 AM
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