Thunder Bay – What if?

The recent firestorm over just how much the provincial government should be shelling out to the victims of the sewage treatment plant failure last May, has renewed the accusatorial finger pointing …again.

City Admin media attack dogs and their internet hench-trolls have always called the storm event unpredictable. An unknown unknown as Donald Rumsfield might say.  There is no way the City of Thunder Bay can be prepared for every possible weather event, they say. It would be too cost prohibitive.  Where do you draw the line?

The main problem I have with the preparedness of the City of Thunder Bay for such a storm event is not that the sewage treatment plant was built without the $1.4 million in  improvements that have since been approved by City Council.  Nope, if they were omitted for the right reasons.

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The problem I have was that the possibility of such a storm event was totally ignored by City Staff or the consultants who worked on the plant construction.  It appears that no effort was made to calculate the odds of such a storm event happening and what damage such a storm might do to the city.  Were the odds 100 to 1, 1000 to 1 or a million to one that a huge rain event will happen in the next 10 years? 100 years? 1000 years? Who knows? Is that important? You bet it is, if you want to make the right decision.

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Also, a cost/benefit analysis appears not to have been done to see if the cost of making the improvements to the plant outweighed the cost of potential damage city infrastructure if the improvements were not made. You know…spending $1.4 million to save $100 million in potential damage? That kind of thing. Something else you want to know if you are going to make the right decision.

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At least then it would look like City Admin was thinking beyond the here and now.  Covering all the angles.  Looking out for the people.  You know, asking what if ?

What would happen if we got a huge amount of rain in a very short time? How much rain would cause the plant to fail?  What are the chances of such a storm happening? I know it wasn’t zero.  When you have a sewage treatment plant that has to deal with a large amount of precipitation, then those are the kind of questions that need to be asked…by someone. Anyone.

Also, the same goes for the screens. With screens in the plant catching all the large debris, then what if they get plugged?  Where would the water go?  How much crap is in those sewers? Questions that needed to be investigated. Answered.

It appears that nobody did any kind of analysis of potential severe weather events.  Nobody looked to see what debris was laying around inside the sewers.  THAT is what is wrong with what happened last May.

Nobody did anything at all because such a storm had never been seen by Thunder Bay.  The fact that such a storm had happened in other communities should have made our City Administrators at least take a look at the possibility, the chance that just maybe, just maybe, Thunder Bay was not immune to that kind of intense rain.

Unfortunately, doing nothing at all is business as usual for our City Administration.  What other potential disaster is out there?  Is Thunder Bay prepared? That question should cause some sleepless nights for the local taxpayers.

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