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How the City of Kamloops disciplined employees after sewage spill

August 12, 2015 - 6:30 PM

'THIS ALLOWS YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO REBUILD THE CITY'S TRUST IN YOU."

KAMLOOPS – The City of Kamloops fired one employee and disciplined four others following a discharge of sewage into the South Thompson River in 2014.

Results of a Freedom of Information request by InfoNews.ca shows one employee was terminated, one employee was nearly terminated and three others were disciplined because of numerous human errors that caused and failed to catch the spill. Sources say the terminated employee is contesting the action and is going to arbitration. A Canadian Union of Public Employees spokesperson was unable to confirm union involvement before deadline.

On Sept. 16, 2014 an irrigation technician, attempting to shut-off irrigation valves for the winter, shut-off the wrong valve — an inlet valve to the O’Connor lift station. When the valve was shut, sewage could not flow through the lift station to the sewage treatment plant.

Sewage spilled into both sides of the East Trans-Canada Highway near the neighbourhood of Dallas. Through a further series of errors, untreated sewage — enough to fill two Olympic-size swimming pools — was eventually spilled into the South Thompson River.

When the City informed the public in May 2015, it was unspecific about accountability, saying those responsible for the spill were reprimanded. The City refused to disclose what actions were taken and towards which employees.

Citing privacy restrictions, the City still refuses to disclose the names of employees deemed responsible for the sewage spill.

One senior employee narrowly escaped termination and was handed instead a 30-day suspension without pay.

Colleen Quigley, human resources manager with the city, wrote via e-mail a disciplinary letter to the employee saying the city was prepared to forego termination, “given the circumstances, including your seniority” opting instead for the suspension.

“This allows you an opportunity to rebuild the City’s trust in you,” Quigley wrote.

Throughout the roughly 150 pages of heavily redacted correspondence, documents and notes provided by the City, nowhere is there mention of attempts or interest in informing residents of Kamloops about the spill.

The public learned of the spill May 12, 2015 — roughly eight months later — in a city press release. By that time the City had already under gone a type of ‘restorative justice’ offered by the Ministry of Environment and helped decide its own level of culpability and punishment.

The City agreed through the process to contribute $20,000 towards rehabilitation on the Tranquille River and spend $8,000 upgrading alarms.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dana Reynolds at dreynolds@infonews.ca or call 250-819-6089. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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