Nfld. & Labrador

Spewing sewage the latest in stinky saga for Paradise residents

Jim Clarke went out his front door Wednesday evening in Paradise, N.L., to see what was happening, and got a face full of sewage spray for his trouble.

'It just keeps getting worse,' says resident Jim Clarke of continuous smelly mess

Jim Clarke lives right behind the sewage lift station in Paradise, N.L., and wants the town to buy him out so he can get away from what he says are constant sewage problems. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Jim Clarke has been dealing with sewage spilling onto his Paradise, N.L., property for years, but said the most recent scene is the worst it has ever been.

On Wednesday evening, Clarke and his family went out their front door to see what was going on at the site where town crews are working on sewage lines.

"The new pipes they put in actually busted and sewage was spraying like 30 feet [9.1 metres] in the air," Clarke said. 

"We went on our front steps to see what was going on, it actually sprayed into our face and all over us, so it's all over the house, us, and the land."

Clarke said his family went back inside to clean up, but it should never have been reduced to this.

"It just keeps getting worse."

He has been living in his home since 2004, and said there have been problems with the town's sewage system since the first day.

This is the sixth or seven incident, he said, adding his lawn and property were earlier flooded with seeping sewage, as well as untreated waste coming back up through his basement pipes.

"This is the worst time ever, though," Clarke said.

Earlier this month, the town brought in new equipment to deal with a problem at its largest sewage lift.

The lift station had stopped pushing sewage from the bottom of St. Thomas Line to the top, forcing the town to use trucks to move the sewage down the line, to a point where gravity could take it on to the treatment facility.

It had previously been using eight trucks, 24 hours a day, to pump the sewage storage tanks of a line that connects about 60 per cent of the town.

For Clarke, it's just the latest in a sewage saga he said has been playing out for years.

Our property is covered with sewage and toilet paper.- Jim Clarke

"It just keeps getting worse," he said.

"It smells. We've got grandchildren and we can't let them go out and play in our yard anymore. It's horrible. We don't know if we're gonna get sick or not. It's an absolutely horrible way to live."

Clarke said he wants the town to buy him out and use his property for the infrastructure he said they "obviously need."

He's got the backing of his local MHA, David Brazil, who is working with the town to find a solution to the problem.

Brazil said that at the very least, the town should build a berm between the house and the lift station to block any potential sewage spray or spills. At some point, Brazil said, it has to be more economical for the town to buy the house. 

A look at Clarke's lawn Wednesday evening, after sewage started spraying into the air and covering his lawn. (Submitted by Wendy Clarke)

Paradise Mayor Dan Bobbett said the lift station work has been costing the town $50,000 a day since the breakdown on Aug. 12.

"All said and done, I'd expect it will be $1.5 million or more," Brazil said.

Both Bobbett and Brazil are working together to try to get emergency funding from the provincial or federal government to help pay for the problem.

While Clarke said all his interactions with town staff have been positive, nothing has changed.

"They brag about this being one of the largest, the fastest-growing communities in Atlantic Canada, but yet they don't do anything to keep up the infrastructure of it."

By Thursday morning, Clarke said the sewage had seeped into his lawn, so it wasn't as bad as Wednesday night's mess.

But it's still quite a state.

"There's no buildup now, it's after sinking into the ground, but our property is covered with sewage and toilet paper and everything else. And it's been that way for the past three weeks," he said. "It's horrible."

Apologies issued

Bobbett and Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Laurie visited Clarke's home to offer an apology Thursday afternoon before holding a news conference at Paradise town hall with Brazil at 1:30 p.m. local time.

Bobbett said there was a pressure surge in the equipment Wednesday evening causing sewage to backup that sprayed waste over St. Thomas Line and Clarke's property. 

"Given what happened last night, we wanted to reach out personally. All of the council certainly empathizes with the resident for having to deal with this situation," he said, adding the town offered Clarke the option to stay in a hotel for the short term.

Clarke declined the mayor's offer, saying living in a hotel would further disrupt the family's lives, but he told Bobbett that he and his family would be open to living in a rental property in Paradise until all issues regarding the sewage lift were fixed or if the town purchased his property.

Clarke said he wants the town to cover the rent plus all utilities of a potential rental since he still has to cover bills on his own home.

The town told Clarke that they will look into his counter proposal.

Paradise Mayor Dan Bobbett visited Clarke's home on St. Thomas Line on Thursday to personally offer an apology and work directly with Clarke to find a solution to the sewage flooding his land. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Bobbett said a land restoration company will be brought in by the town to ensure Clarke's property will be returned to the condition it was in before the sewage leak.

As for the town buying the property, Bobbett said it's in consideration but will have to be brought before council any decisions are made.

There is still no timeline for when the lift will be completely fixed, though it is still operational and working at its full capacity using pump trucks, and he's standing by his town's engineers, Bobbett said.

"Our director of engineering is a mechanical engineer. We have our own engineers on staff, plus our consulting engineers. We have a team looking at it," he said.

"We want to get this resolved, but we got to get those levels low enough so they can assess the situation and find out exactly what's causing the problems we have."  

Environmental tests are ongoing, Bobbett said. 

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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