As residents of a west Edmonton neighbourhood prepare for another summer of construction, they may finally be getting some relief from a smelly situation.
A construction project has been underway at 99 Avenue and 151 Street for several years now and last summer, residents came forward saying gas and odours from the site were making them ill.
Work on a deep sanitary sewer line in West Jasper Place began in 2011 to prevent flooding. The construction site was cleared in late 2014, but crews returned a few months later for emergency sewer pipe rehabilitation.
Irene Blain, civic director of the West Jasper Sherwood Community League, said the shaft was capped last summer but not before odour and smells took a toll on residents.
“It was enough to create physical problems. One gentleman on the corner, he has a fast heart rate that has continued, tachycardia from that,” she said.
City workers are set to uncap a sewer line again to complete work on it, but this time they are prepared — air scrubbers are being installed when the shaft is uncapped in May.
“Primarily, when we’re not working there, we’re sealing it. When we’re actively working in those construction sites, we have air scrubbers that take out those odourous chemicals in the air. During construction, we will inject a recommended chemical within that sewer system to reduce the potential for that odour to be generated in the sewers,” Todd Wyman, the acting executive director for Utilities and Infrastructure for the City of Edmonton, said.
Wyman disputes that the odour is toxic, however the city has not done a report on sewer gases since 1990s.
“The makeup of the gases were fairly inert at levels we were monitoring and there was really no concern except maybe the smell issue of certain gases. That being said, we want to update that report, take a look at what’s there today and if there is something we need to take a look at, we will certainly dive in and address those issues,” he said.
Wyman said the scrubbers will be in place in May and removed in October, when the construction season comes to an end.
“We will be using them in an optimized fashion in order to ensure we can manage the odours compared to what we need to do for construction purposes,” he said.
Blain is concerned about the noise the scrubbers will make.
“The air scrubber will emit up to 80 decibels 50 feet away, which is nearly twice the approved limit in the community standards bylaw. Will drainage services guarantee residents they will insulate residents to ensure the noise levels abide by the community standards bylaw?” she said.
But Wyman said the city will be conscientious of that.
“These air scrubbers do make noise. We [will] operate them in a responsible fashion so we’re not impacting residents with sound rather than odour,” he said.
Mayor Don Iveson said he is sympathetic to the disruption the project has caused residents in West Jasper Place but hopes they look at the bigger picture.
“The west part of the city relies on this sewer so we have to forge ahead and try to get it done as quickly as possible,” he said.
Ward 1 Councillor Andrew Knack said he understands the frustrations of the community but said things are looking up.
“I’m confident there’s a good process in place now in terms of communication, in terms of making sure the work is done with as little impact to the community as possible,” he said.
“The final piece is when is it finally going to end? It’s work that has to happen but we know we’re still looking out to October, which is probably the biggest challenge to everyone.”
Knack said the next step for the project is visual inspections of sanitary lines along 151 Street and along 100 Avenue.
As for Blain, she will be keeping a watchful eye after the scrubbers are installed.
“We want the work to be done properly and we know it will take time. But we want to ensure they’re doing the proper engineering and research ahead of time to ensure they’re doing the utmost to prevent these gases, for us being exposed to these gases,” she said.
-with files from Global News
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