Town diverting sewage into river Heavy rain also prompts mill to open more dam gates

With the Fort Frances area having received about 5.6 cm (2.2 inches) of rain in a 24-hour period as of midnight on Wednesday, and more on the way, the town has begun pumping untreated sewage into the river to relieve stress on the sewage treatment system.
“Because of the heavy rainfall the town’s experienced in the past 12 hours, the sewage treatment plant is in bypass mode,” Fire Chief Steve Richardson, who also is the town’s community emergency management co-ordinator, said Thursday morning.
Since 2 a.m. on Thursday, the sewage treatment plant has been diverting a flow of waste at 60 litres a second into the river, noted Doug Brown, the town’s manager of Operations and Facilities.
Chief Richardson noted the practice does not pose a health hazard to residents and falls within environmental guidelines. “All the appropriate agencies have been notified,” he said.
How much more rain the area gets will determine how long untreated sewage will continue to be discharged into the river, noted Brown.
He added the town also is ordering all residents with sump pumps in their homes to ensure they’re operating in “summer mode” in order to prevent the rainwater from being discharged into the sanitary sewer system.
“What we’re trying to do is reduce the amount of water going into the system until we have it all under control,” he explained.
Brown stressed putting groundwater into the sanitary sewer system, as opposed to the storm sewer system, only increases the burden on the sewage treatment plant, which already is having a hard time handling the flow resulting from the rain.
He noted the town has a bylaw that states all residents with sump pumps must have them in “summer mode” by this time of year, and hopes the town won’t have to resort to enforcing that bylaw with visits to people’s homes.
Brown also said all residents, not just those with sump pumps, can help reduce the strain on the system by monitoring their water use in the next day or so.
People are encouraged to cut back on flushing their toilets, washing clothes, and bathing if possible.
He added people really helped the town out last October when it made a similar request for residents to reduce their water usage during a time when the sewage treatment plant had to deal with a heavy rainfall.
Meanwhile, Abitibi-Consolidated has opened 10 of the 15 spill gates at the dam here due to the heavy rainfall.
“We’ll be opening a couple more later today [Thursday],” said Raimo Tyrvainen, energy and utilities co-ordinator at the mill.
“The lake is high,” he noted. “It’s gone over the curve a little bit, but we’re still not over the summer maximum.
“We’ll open the gates as we can, but we have to try and stage the openings,” stressed Tyrvainen. “If it keeps raining like it is, I surmise we’ll have all the spill gates open within the next week.”
The flow through the dam currently is around 800 cubic metres per second.
The last time all of the gates were open at the dam was back in 2002 during the flooding spawned by heavy rain in June of that year.