City of Toronto: Still spending millions to jeopardize our health – The longer I’m in business, the more frustrated and annoyed I get with government. No actually, the angrier I get. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a radical. I just have this naive notion that government should support (not impede) responsible local business nor conduct itself in a manner that is wasteful, irresponsible or not in the best interest of the people that pay for it – namely you and I, the taxpayer. Does that really sound like an unreasonable request?

I first wrote about this in 2004 and the problem is now bigger than ever. Somebody better pay attention to this – and fast!

I recently read two absolutely terrifying articles in our local community newspapers: One entitled ” City sets free downspout disconnection deadline” and another entitled “Oh no! My basement’s flooded…”. In the first article we learn that the City’s mandatory downspout program, designed to reduce flooding in older areas of Toronto, will soon be the responsibility of the homeowner, as the City’s free service will end soon. The second article is essentially built upon advice from the City Public Works folks and it directs us to disconnect downspouts as a means of avoiding flooding.

In my humble opinion, both of these articles are “mind-numbing”, if not completely irresponsible.

Any real plumbing and drains professional in Toronto knows full well that the prime culprit in flooding is our city’s deteriorating sewer system. The City of Toronto knows this better than anyone: they designed the system!

Yet reading these articles tells me that the City is either clueless or worse, simply not dealing with the core problem and masking it with a strategy that could have huge implications.

Drainpipes are designed to carry a maximum possible load from any collection of fixtures in a home or residence. They simply can’t be overloaded, and to suggest so is a joke. The second article goes on to also make the recommendation that disconnecting rain leaders is the solution. This, in a word is insanity. Here’s why:

On a combined system, rain leaders prime floor drains – just as they were designed to, and just as the building code demands. If the trap seal is not present, you could be allowing sewer gases, rodents, various noxious gases and viruses to come into your home with ease.

If you think I’m being dramatic, The World Heath Organization has written on the origin of the early Sars virus outbreaks which many globally respected experts point to – you guessed it – unprimed drain traps as a prime suspect in the spread of the disease originally!

Here is an excerpt from the World Health Organization Release: Inadequate plumbing systems likely contributed to SARS transmission, 26 September 2003

“It has been suggested that the “fecal droplet” route may have been one of several modes of transmission in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak in early 2003. In this case, droplets originating from virus-rich excreta in a given building’s drainage system re-entered into resident’s apartments via sewage and drainage systems where there were strong upward air flows, inadequate “traps” and non-functional water seals”.

Also, In a World Plumbing Council New Release dated February 25, 2004, the specter of the direct connection between faulty drain traps and Sars was discussed in some detail:

“In describing the origin of the Sars Virus, outbreak at the Amoy Gardens apartment complex in Hong Kong, the release stated that a faulty drain in the bathroom lost its trap seal and thus became an open pathway for the fecal droplets containing the Sars virus to escape. It escaped into the bathroom and became released to other apartments through a shared ventilation system. Air currents then spread the fecal droplets throughout the complex.”

The release also stated that “the trap seal in a floor drain is extremely important in protecting against the passage of bacteria and disease, including Sars Coronavirus (CoV). At the time of the outbreak, the floor traps in many of the apartments seemed to have been dried out and therefore were not acting as barriers between the floor drain and the soil stack.”

In light of this information, the City of Toronto’s recommendations seem to completely contradict the facts in these World Health Organization releases, not to mention our plumbing codebook. I think there’s another motivation here: money.

When the City says it can’t handle all the fresh ran water in filtration, there’s truth in that. It puts a big strain on their resources. Still, I believe that the City is desperate to do anything to divert attention away from the awful condition of our sewage system – namely where the system connects to your property from the City’s side of the system. It’s horrible, and since the majority of the problems are on the side that the City is responsible for, the financial implication to them is huge. So, if they can divert the strain on the system by making us disconnect our downspouts, they believe they can reduce the impact homeowners might feel at home. At what cost?!

Given how much our city suffered during the Sars outbreak, the idea that the city can make this solution mandatory is incredibly high risk advice.

The question begs: who’s minding the store down at Public Works? The City is mismanaging wastewater and not addressing the real problem, which of course, is crumbling infrastructure. I work with this stuff everyday folks, and taking the advice offered in these City influenced articles I’ve referenced could put you and others in serious, unnecessary risk. Disconnecting your drain trap IS a trap. Don’t do it.

Here’s that link to World Health Organization article:

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