Morrin family uses port-a-potty while sewer repair in limbo

Morrin property owner Howard Helton said he and his wife Lynn are forced to use a port-a-potty in their back yard while waiting for sewer repairs. ECA Review/S.Salkeld
Written by Stu Salkeld

Morrin property owner Howard Helton said he and his wife Lynn are forced to use a port-a-potty in their back yard while waiting for sewer repairs. ECA Review/S.Salkeld

A Morrin family of senior citizens says they’re patiently waiting for the village they live in to fix a serious sewer problem that is the municipality’s responsibility to address, not theirs.

Howard and Lynn Helton, known to readers as a past mayor of Morrin and a recently resigned councillor-elected respectively, told the ECA Review in an interview Nov. 4 that a serious sewer issue outside their property should be fixed by the village and, while they wait, they are forced to use a port-a-potty at the back of their property.

Readers should note that, typically, municipalities pay for sewer repairs on public property while homeowners pay for repairs on private property.

In a statement given to the newspaper that day Howard wrote that, “Council passed a resolution in Dec., 2019 to camera all village sewer laterals on 2nd Ave. North as a result of the discovery while checking a problem with lateral on #202 2nd Ave. North. It was determined that the laterals had not been replaced since install in the 1950’s and not when the main was installed in 2011.

“In Sept., 2020 it was reported by village Public Works that there were problems in all the laterals but one. The village was aware of this report as well as the one from Certa Inspections that clearly stated a problem with (the Helton’s) lateral and yet did not inform the Heltons nor make any effort to effect repairs. 

It was not until the Heltons made a number of requests for information from the village that the village disclosed that Certa Inspections could not complete a lateral check due to a blockage. 

As the village was tasked to determine the integrity of the lateral as per the resolution, it was incumbent on them to clear the line so a proper camera survey could be performed. This is as per the sewer policy.

“Despite the Heltons request that the village do something to ensure the integrity of the lateral, nothing was done. This lateral could have been included in the 2021 budget with the other four laterals as council and administration were well aware of the problem prior to the approval of the budget in May, 2021.

“May 8 the sewer backed up into the Helton’s basement. The Heltons cleared the blockage at that time and encountered (a blockage) at approximately the same place as the Certa inspection. 

As the village had stated prior to the blockage it would not pay for a camera which would be required after a plumber cleared the blockage, the Heltons did the clearing themselves to save the cost of a plumber. 

The village maintains even in this circumstance that the responsibility for the sewer lateral is the Helton’s. 

Since May 26, 2021 the Heltons do not flush solids and have rented a portable toilet. In addition, whenever the washers or tub are used the basement floor drain is monitored in case a back-up should occur, so the water source can be shut off. 

Image of a sewer blockage outside the Helton home taken by Certa Inspections this past fall. ECA Review/Submitted

The village maintains that until another back-up occurs they will not take any responsibility for the situation. 

As the village would not respond to the Heltons, (the family) have enlisted the help of a lawyer. This has been of no avail as the village will not respond.

“Sept. 28 with no effort from the village to come to some sort of resolution, the Heltons contacted Certa Inspections and did a camera survey, the results of which were forwarded to the village. The report clearly shows a significant problem with the village lateral. 

Incidentally, the large obstruction is still at the location determined by Certa a year ago. That is, at the location at the end of the 24 feet of the dipped line full of liquid, just before the transition to the mainline,” added the statement.

When contacted for comment by the ECA Review Nov. 3, village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner stated that since the issue involves litigation, the village is unable to comment on the Helton’s sewer issue.

Howard stated the last they’ve heard the village has forwarded this issue to their insurance company, adding that it looks like the couple will be using the port-a-potty for the foreseeable future. 

He noted that, with the portable toilet costs plus the camera work they are in the hole by about $1,000.

Howard stated he would like to see the Village of Morrin clear the sewer obstruction, which he suspects they’ll have to dig up, but had his doubts.

“I can’t trust that they would come and make it clear for us,” said Howard at his home. “Not when their attitude is ‘Give us a call when you see it in your basement.’”


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.