Cleanup continues in north Edmonton neighbourhood after sewer backups

130 homes affected by flooding in Griesbach
July 22: Over the weekend, EPCOR said about 20 homes were affected by flooding in Griesbach. On Monday, that number had jumped to 130. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: July 22 – EPCOR initially said about 20 homes were affected by flooding. On Monday, that number jumped to 130.

Residents in Edmonton’s Griesbach neighbourhood were continuing to clean up on Sunday after sewer backups caused flooding in dozens of houses this weekend.

However, relief may not be in sight for some time. EPCOR said it may take between 48 and 72 hours before water levels get back to normal.

Brenda Schienmann said she has only slept three out of the last 48 hours as she dealt with flooding in her Griesbach house.

“[On] Friday… I noticed this strong smell,” she said. “The odour got stronger as I moved down the hallway so I open my furnace door room and there was at least three inches of water throughout the whole floor.”
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Schienmann said she stayed up Friday night with a mop and pails to keep the water from seeping into the rest of her basement. She then moved as many belongings as she could off the floor throughout her entire basement.

“The last 48 hours, I have basically just been working to keep the area [and] the damage contained to the furnace room,” she said.

READ MORE: Flooding issues reported in Edmonton’s Griesbach community

Watch below (July 21): Dozens of houses in Edmonton’s Griesbach area are being cleaned up after flooding caused by a sewer backup. EPCOR says its system is still overcapacity, two days after torrential rains. As Julia Wong reports, the utility says it may take a few more days before things return to normal.

Cleanup continues after flooding
Cleanup continues after flooding

Schienmann said drywall and some carpet may have to be replaced, and while she commends EPCOR for responding to the situation, she is upset it happened in the first place.

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“The sad thing is, I’m always going to have this fear now,” she said. “Anytime we’re going to get a bad rainstorm, I always felt confident. I thought I prepared myself… but now I know that there’s only so much you can do.

“I just don’t have that trust now, right? I had just always trusted… EPCOR, everything should be good. I shouldn’t have any problems. Now I see things can happen.”

EPCOR told Global News on Saturday that the flooding is believed to be related, at least in part, to the significant amount of precipitation that has fallen on the neighbourhood over the last few days. The utility said the backups are the result of a trunkline being at capacity and added that stormwater ponds in the area were also at capacity, although they were functioning properly.

Monica Slabysz hauled giant bags of paper towels and bleach into her house on Sunday as she prepared to tackle the aftermath of the flooding and sanitize the areas touched by the sewage backup.

“[Early Saturday afternoon], I found a large pool of sewer water with raw sewage around my basement drain and surrounding my furnace… [it was] actively creeping towards the rest of the basement,” she said.
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“It was very, very bad but luckily I think I caught it within an hour of it happening.”

Slabysz stayed up for hours trying to contain the water, which she said eventually stopped coming up through the door at around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday.

“There’s been no resting because I’ve been looking at the drain, waiting for more water to come up,” she said.

Slabysz’s basement is not finished so the damage isn’t as extensive as it could have been, but she has strong words for EPCOR.

“Why didn’t they catch this before it happened? The excuse I’ve been hearing is there’s been lots of rain. It’s not like the rain happened suddenly. It’s been raining for a month. Why didn’t they check the water level?”

Watch below: (July 20) Some residents in Edmonton’s Griesbach neighbourhood were dealing with sewer backups on Saturday. As Sarah Komadina reports, it’s believed the accumulation of rain this week played a key role in what happened.

Crews respond to sewer backups in Griesbach
Crews respond to sewer backups in Griesbach

Clayton Tiedemann, divisional vice-president of construction and operations at EPCOR, said the height of the sewage at the lift station is typically at five metres, but on Saturday it flowed at 13 metres. It was reduced to 11 metres overnight but is still running over capacity.

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“We think it’s going to take at least 48 to 72 hours, assuming it stays dry, for us to get the system back to normal,” he said.

“Unfortunately, that’s as quick as we can move the water.”

Tiedemann said EPCOR was actually adding additional capacity to the trunkline but it was not slated to be completed for another year.

He also defended EPCOR’s preparedness in dealing with the recent rain and said the utility is continually working to improve its system capacity.

“Part of the problem is… the storm is very interspatial,” he said. “You don’t know exactly where the big volumes are going to be. Trying to try to prepare the entire city or something like that, you have to do your best and hope that the volumes aren’t as large.”

Tiedemann said EPCOR has received 55 calls in total from people about flooding.

It is likely the number is much higher, however. Tiedemann said EPCOR is only aware of situations when residents call 311 and the utility is encouraging people to do so.

EPCOR is asking residents to limit indoor water consumption and avoid using the dishwasher and washing machines.

Tiedemann has these words for residents who may not trust EPCOR after the flooding: “EPCOR takes this very, very seriously. We are doing our best to design the system to address these kinds of situations. We don’t control the weather, that’s the unfortunate part.”

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“We build the system according to the designs and the standards that are in place,” Tiedemann said. “To build systems larger costs more money, so there’s always that trade-off.”