Right to his neck in sewage

Elk Point Public Works averted water usage reduction for residents


Pump failures at the Elk Point lift station on Friday, March 23, put Public Works employees into uncomfortable positions for long hours to ensure that water and sewer service was not interrupted to the town.


An aging pump blew, damaging the frame of a second pump and resulting in significant liquid spill at the lift station site.  Workers could not get the system shut off until Public Works Superintendent Jay Duffee “suited up and went right to his neck” in sewage.  Said CAO Ken Gwozdz, “I wanted to share with you that our public works department went to a lot to get this done.”  The spill was contained but vacuum trucks were required to haul effluent to a cell near the lagoon until the backup pump was installed and operational.


Although the backup pump worked, staff kept watch on it all weekend, concerned about vibrations in a damaged connecting shaft. They could have shut off the pump, but that would cause sewer backup and “a lot of complaints,” explained Gwozdz.


Mayor Lorne Young commended Duffee, “Public Works went over and above to keep the town operating. Jay was literally up to his neck in sewage.  The town could have requested that residents reduce water consumption, because that’s what drives sewer use, but Jay and Ken tried to make it work without causing any inconvenience to the town.”


The town is looking for replacement pumps, possibly from other municipalities who may have similar pumps in storage. Young cautioned, “No matter how we play this out, there are going to be significant dollars spent here, beyond anything we budgeted for directly.” It will have an impact on decisions at the budget meeting scheduled for April 23.


Electric motors above ground level are connected to a drive shaft that goes 30 feet underground to drive the pumps. It was the pump at the bottom that blew up. Repairs will include replacing the two pumps, accessories, a backup submersible pump, and rebuilding about two-thirds of the pump station.


The good news is that the pipes were not damaged when the pump blew up.