A plumbing error that resulted in tonnes of raw sewage being pumped into a stormwater drainage system has been fixed, and the cleanup should be completed by the end of day Friday.
The problem came to light last Friday, Aug. 5 when somebody complained to the municipality of a foul smell by the Whistler Golf Course driving range. The municipality investigated and confirmed that there was in fact raw sewage in a drainage ditch on the corner of Whistler Way and Highway 99. They followed their noses to the source, which turned out to be the newly renovated Crystal Lodge.
"We very quickly determined that the sewage was coming from the Crystal Lodge, and that an onsite plumbing area had the sewage pumps hooked up to the stormwater system," said Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
Because parts of the lodge are still undergoing renovation, it is unknown how much sewage made its way into the stormwater channel. From the driving range, the storm drain is diverted under Highway 99 to a pond on the Whistler Golf Course. From there the waterway connects to Crabapple Creek, and to the River of Golden Dreams system. Tests downstream of the pond have so far been normal.
The RMOW says the remediation of the storm drain and monitoring is up to Burrard International, the construction company working on the Crystal Lodge project.
"We did the investigation and contacted the construction manager helped them to get a plumber on site, and co-ordinated with them to get Carneys (Waste Systems) trucks at the site, and recommended they hire Cascade Environmental to do their environmental monitoring," said Barnett.
"Was there any damage? We imagine the furthest this has gone is the pond, where its being taken care of naturally. Nothing has been reported yet in Crabapple Creek and we dont expect there to be."
The Provincial Emergency Program, Ministry of Health, and Coastal Health Centre have been involved, and determined there was no risk to public health at this time. Cascade Environmental Resource Group has also completed their first round of monitoring tests, and so far Crabapple Creek remains healthy.
Kelly Klassen, the construction manager, says the on-site cleanup is proceeding around the clock and making progress.
"Its been a little more difficult because the storm line has a lot of sand and gravel from over the years, so its not like flushing out a nice clean line," he said. "That part is hard, but were making progress and the preliminary results we have coming back seem to be okay. Well be taking more tests next week and after that to be sure. We want to do this right."
Klassen said it was fortunate that the mistake was discovered before a rainstorm, or before the hotel was fully open and at capacity.
"It could have been a lot worse, there were definitely some good circumstances in our favour to minimize the impact."
According to Alan Kristmanson, there has been no reported impact to the Whistler Golf Course. No smell or sewage has been detected in the pond.
"Theyve been pumping for about four days non-stop, and what I can gather and what the superintendent told me is that theyre doing a pretty good job getting it all," he said.
"Crabapple moves pretty fast so even if something got through its gone already, but we havent heard anything and the tests have come up negative. It seems like they got to the problem in time."
The mistake also occurred at a fortunate time for local fisheries if any sewage got through the culvert on Highway 99. Mid-August is between spawning seasons for different species, and the preferred time of year for conducting in-stream work.