New Brunswick

Adding insult to injury, flood brings sea of sewage to Fredericton man's home

The spring freshet has inundated houses, eroded property and displaced New Brunswickers up and down the St. John River — and now it's created a foul new problem for the residents of Riverside Drive in Fredericton.

Overflowing manhole spills sewage all over Riverside Drive

Some of the debris left on Riverside Drive in Fredericton after an overflowing manhole spilled sewage into the street. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The spring freshet has inundated houses, eroded property and displaced New Brunswickers up and down the St. John River — and now it's created a foul new problem for the residents of Riverside Drive in Fredericton.

"Every kind of a thing that's thrown in a flush is here," said resident Richard Yeomans.

Sewage spewed from a nearby overflowing manhole after historically high floodwaters spilled into the street and overpowered the city's system. Yeomans watched — and smelled — all kinds of "pollution," from tampons to toilet paper, float across the road and into his yard and basement.

"The city sewer system has been pumped directly across my ground and has affected all my neighbourhood here, and people hadn't realized that the city's been doing that," Yeomans said.

"And therefore, there's some people in quite shock … and the city hasn't done anything about it. So, we're quite upset with that."

From tampons to toilet paper, 'every kind of a thing that's thrown in a flush is here,' says Richard Yeomans. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

But the city said there's nothing it can do when the water reaches a metre over the road. At its peak, the river level in Fredericton hit 8.36 metres, nearly two metres over flood stage.

Manholes overflow because the city's pumps are working flat out trying to move river water and sewer water through the system.

"We're pumping as much flow as we can,"  said Dan Harvey, manager of Fredericton's pollution control division.

"Most of the flow that we're moving is … more river water than anything, so it's diluted. So when our systems are underwater, under the river, it's a challenge to pump the river, to move that much flow."

A Fredericton man is dealing with sewage spilling out onto his flooded street and yard. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

And turning off the pumps wouldn't be a good idea, he said.

"If you shut off all the pumps, then wastewater would back up in peoples' homes," Harvey said. "It would be a terrible mess."

2nd year in a row

Yeomans said it's the second straight year he's dealt with the issue.

"I had all of the city officials over there looking at what happened last year, and they said it wouldn't happen again, they'd fix it up, but the exact same thing, only more, happened this year," he said.

Richard Yeomans says sewage spilled onto his road and yard and into his basement. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

On Thursday, there was still about four feet of contaminated water in his basement, but he's also worried about the saturated ground.

"And you look over next door and you see little kids playing out in it and that's not very healthy for them," Yeomans said.

In a statement, Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said children should not be allowed to play in floodwater areas until the areas have been cleaned up or for about a week after the floodwater has cleared completely.

Sunlight and soil help destroy harmful bacteria and any excess risk to health should disappear, she said.

To that point, Yeomans said his basement doesn't get much sunlight.

With files from Catherine Harrop

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