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Editorial: Bigger concerns than smell to solve with Salmon Arm sewage treatment plant

City seeking public input on site selection process

For a long time there’s been talk of relocating Salmon Arm’s wastewater treatment plant from the foreshore.

That discussion has come to the forefront with the city seeking public input on its site selection process for an upgraded treatment facility.

The wastewater treatment plant has been operating at its current location by Shuswap Lake for 43 years. The 121 Narcisse Street NW site was chosen after a proposal to put it on Minion Field, at 2191 30th Street SW, was rejected by the Agricultural Land Commission and the Provincial Pollution Control Board.

According to the city, the plant was initially designed to service a population of 6,250.

Several substantial and expensive upgrades have since occurred at the facility in the process increasing its capacity to service a population of 15,000.

A 2017 engineering report found the plant was working at 90 per cent of that 15,000 design capacity. The city’s 2018 annual report on wastewater treatment and collection states most of the plant’s major unit processes can operate in excess of that capacity. Exceptions include anoxic and anaerobic reactors, which form part of the phosphate removal process. At that time these were approaching capacity limits.

Read more: City of Salmon Arm wants input on site for wastewater treatment

Read more: Tappen area of Shuswap Lake shows high phosphorous and nitrogen levels

Read more: Contaminants seeping into Shuswap Lake remains a concern

It was estimated then that upgrades would be needed between 2020 and 2025.

Since 2016, the population of Salmon Arm has jumped from 17,000 to more than 20,000.

All of the above emphasize the need for an upgraded and/or relocated facility.

Then there’s the health of Shuswap Lake. While elevated contaminant levels have been largely blamed on agricultural sources, the risk of leakage along the foreshore associated with the treatment plant is not unfounded.

Lastly, there’s the smell from that plant that sometimes finds its way into parts of the downtown. Certainly, as residential development continues to grow around 121 Narcisse, so to will the desire to see the plant placed somewhere else.

No doubt the site selection process comes packaged with significant challenges. Hopefully, we’ll find ways to address these sooner than later, as an overworked sewage treatment plant seems a pressing priority.

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