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Sewage back-up prompts hotel wing evacuation

Fire Chief initiates level one emergency

By Alison Taylor

Whistler’s emergency operations team kicked into gear this weekend after a burst irrigation pipe caused a major sewage back-up in a local hotel.

Fire crews were called in to the Coast Hotel around 4:30 a.m. Saturday after sewage began spilling up through the toilets in the first floor west wing units.

Only one room was occupied on that floor but the fire department evacuated the whole west wing.

Fire Chief Rob Whitton, who initiated a Level One Emergency Operations Centre, described it as “significant flooding.”

He explained why he activated the level one EOC, which is a small event, contained to one site, with the threat of turning into a larger event. It also means the Provincial Emergency Program is notified.

“As we started getting closer to the time when the rest of the village was going to be waking up, if it was a central problem it was going to get worse before it got better, given that everybody would be up showering, using the toilets,” said Whitton.

The system was backing up for several hours until crews determined the source was a burst irrigation pipe under the hotel and was contained to that location. At that time, the EOC was called off.

Fire crews sandbagged the first floor units to prevent the sewage spreading into the lobby and main office of the hotel.

They also helped move cars from the underground parkade, which was also dealing with sewage flow.

Coast Hotel general manager Camilla Say said it was fortunate the accident did not happen during the busy season. The hotel had extra rooms on hand to accommodate most of the guests. Several checked out a little earlier than planned and a handful were put up at the Crystal Lodge.

“The police department, the fire department and the municipality were absolutely fabulous in helping us,” said Say. “They were all there at 5 o’clock in the morning on Saturday trying to work out what the problem was. I have to say, I was extremely impressed with the efficiency in dealing with the problem.”

Because water was running from the hotel to the Valley Trail, crews closed off a portion of the trail. Cascade Environmental was called in to assess the contamination. That portion of the trail, on the east-side of Highway 99 near the Coast, was cordoned off for four days and reopened again Wednesday morning.

Say said 24-hour restoration crews are on site cleaning out the damage to the rooms.

“It’s all happening as we speak, day to day at the moment,” she said. “That wing is closed at the moment just because the corridor into the wing was damaged. Once we get that corridor fixed up then at least we can get people into the upper floors.”

She expects the west wing will open this weekend. The first floor rooms will remain closed for the time being.