A stinky situation: Edzo man slams community government's response to sewage backup

North Douglas mopped up his basement floor in Edzo, N.W.T., with disinfectant, trying to get rid of the stink that hangs in the air. The sewage line into a house he owns backed up twice in the last five days.

North Douglas says it took 24 hours for officials to respond to sewage backup in house basement

North Douglas carries a bucket of sewage water out of a home he owns in Edzo, N.W.T. The sewage line backed up twice in the basement over five days. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

North Douglas mopped up his basement floor in Edzo, N.W.T., with disinfectant, trying to get rid of the stink hanging in the air.

The sewage line into a house he owns backed up twice, once on Friday and again on Monday. Douglas says his calls for help to the community government about the first backup were ignored.

"It was just flowing, just flowing," he said. "I looked for some plastic, some tape. I taped it up really quick, just to slow it down."

Douglas said he made calls to several neighbours who have connections with the local government when the backup first happened Friday night, but a worker didn't come out to the house until Saturday evening.

When the worker arrived, Douglas said he didn't take his claims seriously.

"He wouldn't shut it off, he said 'I don't have to shut it off, it's your fault," Douglas said.

On Saturday, the flow of sewage slowed and it appeared the problem was resolved, but by Monday morning the flow of the black sludge was back.

Even though no one is living in the house, Douglas is concerned that the home will be condemned and he'll have to tear it down.

"I'm afraid they're going to put up a big sign, saying that there is dangerous waste here and nobody can live here," he said.

Concerns likely overblown, says government

But that's not likely going to happen, explained Larry Baran, the community government's senior administrative officer, located in nearby Behchoko.  

Larry Baran, the SAO of the Behchoko community government, disputes some elements of Douglas's story, but says the community government is taking his complaints seriously. ​ (Alex Brockman/CBC)

"I do not anticipate the house being condemned," he said.

Baran said there aren't any records of calls from Douglas made on Friday night, but there are records of his calls Saturday, when a worker came to the house.

Baran confirmed there was a confrontation between Douglas and the worker. He said an RCMP officer came out to the house but the situation was resolved by then. He said that despite Douglas's claim that the worker wasn't taking the situation seriously, the worker believed the sewage problem was solved Saturday.

"If it was one litre [spilled], that's more than we wanted spilled there," Baran said. "I understand his concern and certainly we're going to do all we can to rectify the situation."

The house was built in the 1980s and there is no record of a sewage backup happening before now. It was the only home in the neighbourhood to have a sewage backup this week, Baran said.

Crews were not able to determine the cause of the backup, because Douglas insisted on cutting the house's sewer line from the main line.  

Baran said the community government is paying for a cleaning service to disinfect the house and is also going to flush out the sewer line again.