The Stoney Creek trunk sewer project is set to get a $400,000 upgrade following a unanimous vote by Coquitlam council Monday – however, that upgrade may not help with frequent sewage overflows near the fish-bearing stream.
The project involves the installation of new sanitary main along North Road, just north of Como Lake.
While council was united in support, Mayor Richard Stewart voiced one objection.
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“I’ll argue with the name,” Stewart said. “We’re not spending the money on the one that they mean.”
After multiple incidents of bubbling sewage sliding into Stoney Creek – which is home to chum, coho and Nooksack Dace – the municipality upgraded sewer capacity around North Road. However, that work ended up showing the capacity problems is outside the city’s jurisdiction, explained Coquitlam’s director of utilities Jonathan Helmus.
“It also has confirmed for us that the capacity issue is the Metro Vancouver trunk sewer,” Helmus explained to the Dispatch last December.
In a flood, Metro Vancouver’s sewer trunk main can back up into Coquitlam’s sewer system.
‘Development . . . is probably our friend’
However, council’s decision Monday to replace old clay pipe could reduce the volume of water going into the Metro Vancouver main, according to city’s general manager of engineering and public works Jaime Boan.
The clay pipe was likely responsible for a “fair amount of leakage,” Boan told council.
“The issue is really about [inflow and infiltration] and not development. A development in this particular case is probably our friend,” Boan said.
The pipes have the capacity to carry liquid waste, Mayor Richard Stewart said. But when rainwater leaks in, that capacity can be overwhelmed.
At halftime of the Super Bowl, the pipes usually have plenty of room, “Unless it’s pouring outside,” Stewart said.
It’s an issue that’s being exacerbated by climate change, according to Stewart.
“Our sewage treatment plants don’t have enough capacity for all of the all stormwater that leaks into the system at present across the region.”
Footing the bill
Developers could be paying a lot more for sewer through development cost charges levied by the city, according to a city staff report.
Several factors, including construction costs, could mean a 187 percent spike for sewer development cost charges. Those funds should help pay for the city’s sewer projects, according to a staff report.
Private lines a concern
Besides the city’s sewer and Metro Vancouver’s sewer, there is also the issue of sewer lines on private property, according to Helmus, who discussed the issue in December.
“The biggest question is private laterals and what are homeowners doing about them?” he asked. “I don’t know any homeowner that inspects them regularly or manages them.”
To handle extreme rainfall events, Coquitlam installed a smart cover designed to trigger an email and text message to the city once the water level rises to a certain threshold.
During the November flood, the alert came in approximately two hours and 45 minutes before the area overflowed. That lead time allowed the city to have Vactor trucks in position when needed, according to Helmus.