Lift station pump failure causes sewage to outflow into Huron’s North Channel

Work crews quickly put emergency measures in place once the lift station in Little Current failed due to system users putting non-flushable items down their pipes. Everyone is reminded that only toilet paper and human waste can be sent down the drain.

Residents flushing wipes, rags and gloves is to blame

LITTLE CURRENT – A Little Current lift station pump malfunction last Thursday caused approximately 75 cubic metres of sewage to spill into the North Channel—something that could have been readily avoided, the Northeast Town says, if residents had not been flushing wipes, paper towels and gloves in their toilets. The overload of these specific items is no doubt related to the heavy use of these household, non-flushable products as citizens sanitize their homes and businesses in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But attempting to mitigate one health hazard has led to another one: the unanticipated dump of raw sewage in the North Channel.

Northeast Town CAO Dave Williamson told The Expositor that both the downtown Little Current lift station pumps stopped working Thursday night which caused sewage overflow to last approximately 30 minutes. The hourly rate of outflow of sewage from this main lift station is 150 cubic metres.

“We brought in vacuum trucks until OCWA (Ontario Clean Water Agency) stepped in with a temporary pump that allowed us to bypass our (downed) pump,” Mr. Williamson explained.

The incident was reported to the Ministry of Environment as per outflow protocol, the CAO added.

It was suspected that the cause was a clog of the pumps, likely due to baby and Lysol wipes, which was confirmed with this newspaper on Monday morning.

“There were plastic gloves in the impellor and the screen was filled with wipes and rags,” Mr. Williamson shared.

“We had a spare pump, which is now operating the system,” he added, noting that the backup pump is currently a portable pump owned by OCWA until the broken pumps are repaired.

“While (baby) wipes may say that they’re ‘flushable’ on the package, they are not!” Mr. Williamson said.

Mr. Williamson implored Northeast Town residents utilizing the water systems to not flush anything that should not be flushed, including wipes of any kind, paper towels, rags and disposable gloves as these items are meant for the landfill.