Skip to content

RCMP investigating ongoing vandalism to manholes

Missing manhole covers in Athabasca a mystery.
A series of incidents that saw manhole covers being removed and hidden in the woods has left Town of Athabasca councillors, and utility workers, scratching their heads. While locks have been applied to the covers, mayor Rob Balay thinks that it’s just “kids being kids” and the incidents will die down once steps are taken to reduce the ease of access.

ATHABASCA – After multiple manhole covers were vandalized in June, the Town of Athabasca is on the lookout for ways to prevent it happening again in the future.

During the July 11 council meeting, town utilities department supervisor Terry Kosinski noted during his monthly report that there had been multiple incidents where manhole covers had been tampered with along the Cornwall utility corridor, located in the wooded area west of the Cornwall apartments.

The incidents were first brought to the town’s attention June 6, when workers were called about an open manhole along the corridor. When the crew inspected the site, they found that the cover and the lid had been removed, with the lid being tossed down the hole and the frame hidden in the woods about 50-feet away.

Additional service calls happened on June 8, 10, and 20, leaving the town at a loss for how to stop it.

“It seems like it’s happening later in the evening, or on weekends,” said Kosinski, who noted that they had added locks to the covers over the course of the month. “It’s also in a remote area, so it can be hard to catch them in the act.”

In a July 13 follow up e-mail, Kosinski was able to add some additional details about why the open manholes are a problem, besides the obvious risk of someone falling in.

“Since the vandals have also deposited tall grass, branches, and rocks into the manholes, there have been obstructions in the wastewater flow. These items can also cause blockages anywhere along the 2.5-kilometre main line, which can result in costly damages to both public and private properties and homes due to sewage backup,” said Kosinski. “Deposits from inorganic matter like rocks, sand, silt, or gravel can also cause issues at our wastewater treatment facility, since they don’t belong in a sewage treatment system.”

Coun. David Pacholok had asked if there was anything they, or the community could do to help with the problem, including the possibility of setting up a watch.

“I was wondering if, you know if there’s four people out there looking like they are up to no good, if we could have a community watch let someone know, whether that’s council, administration or the RCMP,” said Pacholok. “It’s got to be pretty difficult for you to have to keep going back, finding the things, and then putting locks on everything.”

Outside of a joking comment about having Pacholok hang out over the utility corridor in a tree stand, councillors concluded that there might not be much that they could do. CAO Rachel Ramey said that the RCMP had been contacted about the vandalism, but it was a case where outside of catching them in the act, it would be hard to prove anything.

“At the end of the day, kids will be kids,” said mayor Rob Balay in a July 13 interview. “When I was the public works manager, I remember we had to bring in a vac-truck one time because the sewer was starting to back up after a similar incident.

“I think it’s a problem that will hopefully go away on its own, I don’t think there’s any malicious intent. I think it’s just some youth that decided that this was a new fun thing to do. There is a bit of a safety concern as someone could fall in, although I think the odds are that they wouldn’t, but we certainly wouldn’t want that to ever happen. I think we’ll probably end up securing it so that it becomes more difficult to remove those manholes in the future.”

Cole Brennan,

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks