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Vacuum Sewer System

Vacuum System

A vacuum sewer system was installed in the Bridgeview and South Westminster neighbourhoods  in the 1970s to provide sanitary sewer service to over 700 residences and businesses in the area. This system was initially chosen for the area because the area is flat and low-lying (2 to 5 metres in elevation), the soil conditions are poor, and the area is too low to connect to one of the City’s gravity sanitary sewer systems.

What is a Vacuum Sewer System?

A vacuum sewer system works a bit like a vacuum cleaner you would use at home. Special pumps, located within a collection station in the community, “suck” air from a network of City-owned pipes (typically beneath roads) that lead to the collection station. This suction, or negative air pressure, causes wastewater in the pipes to be “pulled” towards the collection station. Once wastewater reaches the collection station, it is pumped out through a forcemain to a City gravity sanitary sewer. 

Each property in the area has a sanitary service connection (pipe) that is connected to the City-owned pipe network. A valve at the connection point remains closed until wastewater from the property needs to be added to the pipe network. The valve temporarily opens to release the wastewater, then it closes again. This way, the negative air pressure in the pipe network is maintained.    

Why is the City replacing the Vacuum Sewer System?

Residents and businesses that rely on the vacuum sewer system in the Bridgeview and South Westminster neighbourhoods have had issues with their sanitary service over the years, as the system can block or go out of service more often than a gravity sanitary sewer system. The City’s cost to operate and maintain the vacuum sewer system is about 20 times higher compared to a gravity sanitary sewer. The vacuum sewer technology used is also outdated, and the manufacturer of the system is no longer in business. The current system is limiting development and redevelopment potential in the area as it cannot carry large amounts of wastewater.

Over the past few years, the City has begun replacing the vacuum sewer system in the Bridgeview neighbourhood with a Low Pressure Sewer (LPS) system or a gravity sanitary sewer system with a pump station. The vacuum sewer system in the South Westminster neighbourhood will also be replaced in the future with a LPS system as the area is redeveloped.

I live in the Bridgeview / South Westminster neighbourhood.  What can I do to help keep the vacuum sewer system working?

  1. Do not put materials that could clog or block your service connection down the drain or in the toilet.  Learn more about your maintenance responsibilities.
  2. Hire a plumber to video your service connection. The video can tell you if there are any issues with your service connection (for example, if the pipe is broken or something is blocking it). Fix any issues that are found. 

Find out more about what you can do and how to resolve problems by reading the vacuum sewer troubleshooting section.

Related Content

Vacuum System Troubleshooting

Learn what to watch and listen for when experiencing problems with your vacuum sewer system.

Your Maintenance Responsibilities for Sanitary Sewer

Tips for residents and businesses to keep your sewer pipes working properly.