Shuswap resident and engineer Tony Guerra talks over the city’s wastewater treatment plant with city engineer Jenn Wilson at a city open house into treatment plant options for expansion on Feb. 13, 2020. City council and staff agreed on Feb. 8, 2021 to expand the existing site. (File photo)

Shuswap resident and engineer Tony Guerra talks over the city’s wastewater treatment plant with city engineer Jenn Wilson at a city open house into treatment plant options for expansion on Feb. 13, 2020. City council and staff agreed on Feb. 8, 2021 to expand the existing site. (File photo)

Current site of Salmon Arm’s sewage treatment plant chosen for expansion

Odour, discharge into lake main concerns of those opposed to existing location

Salmon Arm’s sewage treatment plant will be staying where it is.

Regarding a needed expansion due to population growth, council voted unanimously Feb. 8 to support staff’s recommendation to go with the existing site at 121 Narcisse St. NW, next to Churches Thrift Shop.

Cost was the main factor for those who favoured the current site, said Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works. He was referring to a two-year process that included citizen feedback.

Of the four locations shortlisted, expansion of the current site was the least expensive at an estimated $50 million. Minion Field was next at $101 million, while the north industrial park and the light industrial park options were each estimated in the $115 million range.

Niewenhuizen said the city will need to borrow most of the funds. He said borrowing the amount for one of the other shortlisted sites would likely be beyond the city’s capability, so grants would be needed.

Those residents opposed to the existing site were mainly concerned about odour and environmental effects – primarily the discharge of sewage into the lake.

Niewenhuizen said odour can be reduced with stringent new measures included in the cost estimate.

As for discharge of treated effluent into Shuswap Lake, Niewenhuizen said because there is a provincial moratorium on outfalls into the lake, “the outfall remains where it is for all options…”

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Coun. Debbie Cannon asked if the province imposed the moratorium because it wants to move away from putting effluent into lakes. Niewenhuizen said the reason is the province doesn’t want any more large developments around the lake that would discharge sewage into it. He noted that outfalls in Sicamous, Vernon, Penticton and Kelowna are in the same proverbial boat.

Cannon said she still thinks the city needs to look at not putting effluent in the lake.

Coun. Sylvia Lindgren asked if the province is limiting outflows in the lake, will it at some point ask for their removal?

Niewenhuizen said pretty well all major cities discharge into a water body. He said Salmon Arm’s is where it is because it’s the safest location in terms of water intakes.

Coun. Kevin Flynn said it’s important to know that what is being discharged is close to drinking water. He said it’s not drinking water and he won’t drink it, but the discharge, based on all the tests run on it, didn’t have anything to do with the past summer’s algal bloom.

“I think we’re doing a disservice to our treatment plant and our staff and everybody else if we don’t make sure people are aware of that.”

He also said if the provincial or federal government decided municipalities can’t discharge into water bodies, there would need to be some major grants available for the close to 100 per cent that would need to change.

In 2019, Niewenhuizen told council the plant, without an expansion, had an estimated two to five years of service left, based on population.


marthawickett@saobserver.net
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