Townhouse project should help assuage sewage situation, mayor tells somewhat skeptical neighbours

A townhouse development prompted a conversation that ranged from the ravages of climate change to the leakage caused by old toilets during Monday’s Coquitlam council meeting.

The project before council was a 23-unit, three building, three-storey stacked townhouse development that would replace a single-family house and a duplex on the 700-block of Lea Avenue near Robinson Street.

However, neighbours who find toilet paper collecting in their yards with disturbing regularity were skeptical of the project’s merits.

Toilet paper in backyard

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“From my perspective, respectfully, the goal is less toilet paper boiling up into my backyard,” resident Doug Johnson told council.

Noting manholes that regularly spew sewage in heavy rain and pose a persistent threat to nearby Stoney Creek, other neighbours questioned increasing the density on the site and thereby increasing the volume of sewage.

Blame it on the rain(water)

The sewage problem is caused by rainwater saturating the ground, pouring into the sewer and overwhelming 60-year-old pipes, according to Mayor Richard Stewart.

“Development isn’t a panacea but in this case it’s working in our favour,” Stewart said. “I recognize that it isn’t intuitive that actually adding more dishwashers and laundry equipment onto a sewer line will reduce the flow, but it will reduce the flow in the heaviest rain, primarily because we’ve replaced the pipes.”

On average, sewage flow from the new development is expected to amount to about 0.05 litres per second, according to Coquitlam’s engineering department. Comparatively, heavy rainfall causes that flow to rise to approximately 60 litres per second.

“Even if you double or triple or quadruple the number of units on the property, you end up with less flow in wet weather,” Stewart said. “A wet day, we have seven to ten times as much flow from leakage of rainwater into the pipes.”

Noting the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, Stewart suggested the region faced a problem with a billion dollar price tag and no quick solutions.

“Climate change has been the game changer for what we’ve inherited,” Stewart said.

Going from an old house to a newer house usually leads to an approximately 45 percent reduction in water use, according to city staff.

“Toilets that are 50 years old often suffer from the realities of anything that’s 50 years old, they tend to leak. Badly. So I’m told,” Stewart said.

Other options ‘ridiculously expensive’

While council was unanimous in supporting the project, Coun. Chris Wilson struck an apologetic tone in his remarks.

“I’m sorry, there is going to be, because of this development, there’s going to be more toilet paper and excrement,” Wilson said.

However, in the long-term, the redevelopment is a necessary step, according to Wilson.

“If we are going to deal with it [inflow and infiltration] through any other means other than redevelopment, it’s going to be more ridiculously expensive,” he said.

Shutting down development wouldn’t solve the problem, according to Coun. Craig Hodge.

“This goes beyond one development,” he said. “This is a problem in this region.”

Coun. Teri Towner lauded the “very attractive” development.

“We do need more family housing in Coquitlam,” she said.

The project

The project consists of six two-bedroom units and 17 three-bedroom units.

Parking spots: 38

Cash on the table: The developer is on the hook for $439,000 in development cost charges and community amenity contributions to the city.

Approximately 30 trees are set to be removed to facilitate the development.

Applicant Domus Projects Ltd. has proposed 19 replacement trees, according to a city staff report.

The development requires one more formal vote before construction can start.

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