No matter what the future looks like for the city’s sewage treatment plant, it will be expensive for the community.
According to the city’s waste management plan, the plant is nearing its next stage of upgrade. Dependent on population, the plant is expected to reach its capacity in the next two to five years.
The current question is, should it remain where it is or should it be situated elsewhere?
At a recent Chamber of Commerce lunch, Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, said the city is working with a consultant on locating potential sites.
In the ’90s, he said, thought was given to keeping liquid waste at the downtown plant and moving solids to Minion Field, across from Farmcrest Foods on 30th. And when the focus was on grey and black water from houseboats, the idea of moving the plant near the Canoe mill was considered, so the houseboats could dispose of waste there.
“It sounds easy just to pick a point on the map, but it’s the infrastructure to get the sewage to the plant,” Niewenhuizen pointed out. “The plant now is worth about $45 million-plus because of all the infrastructure we have in place.”
Despite complaints that arise about odours, Niewenhiuzen said a lot has been done to minimize smells, with the city spending millions on high tech odour care and capture.
He said just one small part of the plant emits odour, called the trickle filter. It’s designed to let air flow through it because it uses air to cool the effluent. He said it grows a kind of algae, which is part of the cleaning process.
“That is older technology. It still works, but if we were to go to a new phase, we would actually look at indoor technology.”
If the existing site is chosen, the odour-emitting part of the plant would be decommissioned and new technology installed.
As for site selection, Niewenhuizen said there will be a public component. He predicts residents will likely see advertising in January about a request for concerns or comments on potential locations.
He adds that the city was approached recently by its First Nations partners regarding potential locations on their land, so that might be another option.
No matter what happens regarding a site, Niewenhuizen has one prediction to make.
“If we move, I can honestly say it will be a lot of money for the community. If we stay, it will still be a lot of money for the community as we have to build phase 4 – but we do have some funds.”