Sewer blockage causes toilets to overflow in Esquimalt neighbourhood

Workers hired by the Township of Esquimalt to clear a blockage in the main sewage line in a neighbourhood bordering Esquimalt Gorge Park likely caused some toilets to overflow on Wednesday.

The township was made aware of a problem earlier in the week when residents of Sioux Place noticed toilets draining slowly after the recent heavy rains.

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“A camera was sent downstream and it confirmed that the line was not running at full capacity due to a buildup of grease and rootballs in the pipe,” said Jeff Miller, director of engineering and public works at the municipality.

He said that the sewage pipe in the area, which is typically 20 centimetres or larger in diameter, dates back to the 1960s or 1970s, when most of the area was developed.

While the crew contracted by the municipality was working to clear the obstruction, an air bubble was created in the line and travelled up the lateral pipes to nearby homes.

“In simple terms, it created a burp,” he said.

Stan Thomas’s house sustained the most damage, with up to 2.5-centimetres of black water flooding part of a basement suite where his mother-in-law lives.

Dirty water flowed into her bedroom, necessitating her temporary relocation upstairs. Drywall from the bottom of the wall in the basement has been removed, and dehumidifiers and heaters were running constantly Friday in an attempt to dry out the space.

He suspects his house was affected the greatest because it is situated less than 2.5 metres from the main sewer line.

He had noticed that the toilet was not flowing properly earlier in the week. Thinking it was a blockage of pipes on his property, he called Roto-Rooter. They assured him that the problem was not on his property.

A representative from Esquimalt came to assess the situation and determined the blockage was on municipal property.

He praised Esquimalt and his home insurance company, who had a restoration service on site within two hours to mitigate the damage. “You can’t ask for more,” he said.

Other neighbours were luckier. Some reported no damage at all, while others just had to mop up an overflowing toilet or two.

Sue Bell, who lives on a duplex on Craigflower Road, said that all three of her toilets in her two-storey house overflowed, but she was able to contain most of the mess — although some flowed under her baseboards and a bit of carpet was involved.

Millier said it is not uncommon for air bubbles to form while clearing blockages and the extent of the impact depends on the size of pipe, its condition, the type of blockage, the slope of the land and how the lateral pipes to the homes are arranged.

“Any damage should be covered,” he said. “Residents should go through their insurance companies, who will in turn contact us to estimate who covers what.”

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