Sewer Problems Interrupt Tourist Season

Teamwork and persistence solve sewer line problem at historic bed and breakfast.
Sewer Problems Interrupt Tourist Season
Jason Hanson, owner of Do-Right Plumbing & Heating, spent a week working at the Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast in Two Harbors, Minnesota, when sewer problems forced the historic inn to close unexpectedly during its busiest time of year.

The timing couldn’t have been worse when the Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast in Two Harbors, Minnesota, suffered a sewer backup last year during the final week of September.

“Fall colors is our busiest time of the year, so we need to be up and running,” says Mel Sando, executive director of the Lake County Historical Society, which owns and operates the B&B. “Those last weeks in September and early October are huge for us.”

The blockage within the 6-inch clay tile sewer main, caused by a combination of old plumbing and guests and innkeepers flushing nonbiodegradable items such as antiseptic wipes, led to a horror story as the 450-foot holding tank backed up into the lighthouse.

“I was in the basement in my tennis shoes wading in raw waste with a shop vac,” Sando says. “That’s how bad it was.” And to make matters worse, the maintenance staff member was out on vacation.

The first plumbing company Sando reached by phone suggested another, so he placed a second call. “The guy came up, looked at the job, and said they couldn’t handle it, so I started to panic a little bit.”

Although the age of the 1892 lighthouse and the location of the clean-out for the sewer system scared some off, others were willing to roll up their sleeves and give it a shot. In the end, it was a team effort as Do-Right Plumbing & Heating and Midway Sewer worked in tandem to resolve the issue.

When a 3,000 psi jetter didn’t do the trick initially, Superior Septic Service was also called in to use its vacuum truck on one end while the jetter worked from the other, explained Jason Hanson, owner of Do-Right Plumbing & Heating. Ultimately, however, they had to excavate and install access points in a sewer system originally installed back in 1923.

“We basically had to rent an excavator and dig in clean-outs every 100 feet until we opened it up,” Hanson says, noting they used a John Deere 35D mini excavator/track hoe. Hanson’s father also came on site with a Bobcat skid-steer to clean up behind the clean-out work.

The need for precision only added to the challenge, Hanson said, as they dug next to a charged water main. “Because of the fact that there was not a shut-off, we would have shut down the plant in Two Harbors if we would have hit that thing,” he says, “and that made it pretty stressful.”

In total, Hanson was on site for roughly a week seeing the job through to completion. Although the B&B was forced to cancel 16 reservations, which resulted in over $3,000 in lost revenue, it could have been much worse if the companies involved hadn’t worked diligently to get the B&B up and running as soon as possible.

“I’ve got to give him credit. He stuck with us until the job was done even though he had other jobs on his plate at the same time,” Sando says of Hanson. “He told me we’d be back in business for the following weekend, and we were.

“One thing I’m very happy about is that now, away from the lighthouse up to 400 feet, we have clean-outs,” he adds. “So if we ever have a clog again at least I know we’re not going to have to go through that nightmare of
excavating down and searching for the line.”



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