The Town of Sylvan Lake’s waste water treatment operations have been under close investigation by Town staff in the months following an emergency waste water lagoon crisis in late July of this year.
The wastewater treatment facility consists of a number of cells where sewage is stored and treated before being release twice a year through a pipe into Cygnet Creek, upstream of Cygnet Lake. The release was unable to take place due to changes made to Environment Canada’s Fisheries Act, which requires a fish lethality test to be below 50 per cent. The 96-hour test performed by the Town’s Public Works led to a 2/3 failed tests meaning that effluent could not be released. With the Town unable to perform their bi-annual release of treated effluent into Cygnet Lake, a crisis point was reached in which residents were asked to limit sewer flow.
In response to the crisis situation earlier this year, Council approved a $50,000 study contracted to ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd. to analyze the Town’s wastewater treatment system and provide recommendations for improvements to ensure compliance with Federal and Provincial regulations.
On November 28 the Town, ISL and Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) participated in a conference call to review preliminary findings of the study and discuss anticipated actions for the 2017 effluent discharge. AEP indicated during the call that the Town’s wastewater treatment system operating approval for 2017 would require compliance with AEP’s receiving water assessment criteria – a condition not previously imposed upon the Town.
Director of Public Works, Dave Brand, stated in a report to Council this would be difficult to achieve without the addition of further wastewater treatment based on the flow volumes of Cygnet Creek. Brand explained AEP indicated a desire to impose a renewal condition for the Town’s operating approval.
“The Town must provide improvements to the wastewater treatment system along with a schedule for completion,” reads the condition in Brand’s report to Council. “The current operating approval refers to a regional wastewater system with tentative dates. However, the Town does not have sole power to ensure construction of – and connection to – a regional system.”
The Sylvan Lake Regional Wastewater Commission (SLRWWC) consists of eight member municipalities and has this authority. Construction on a regional system is dependent upon securing funding from the Province under the Water For Life program.
“At this time funding is not approved and given the current economic climate in Alberta, it may be some time before funding is approved, if at all” said Brand. He explained the Town and the Commission are currently lobbying the Province for funding and must continue to lobby strongly for the regional system to secure necessary funding approval.
According the Brand, the SLRWWC is actively pursuing funding agreements for the design and construction of a regional pipeline from Sylvan Lake to Red Deer.
A number of items were brought before Council on Monday evening during a regular Meeting of Council regarding waste water treatment, including a recommendation from Brand to move forward with a value analysis study for improvements to the wastewater treatment system. The value analysis study would compliment the efforts of the SLRWWC is developing a regional system and will develop options of exploration until the Town is able to connect to a regional system.
Council voted unanimously to approve a budget of $100,000 from the utility reserve for the completion of the value analysis study. In addition, Council also voted to make amendments to the Water and Sewer Bylaw. The changes to the bylaw include: the addition of a definition for the SLRWWC, the addition of authority for the Chief Administrative Officer to limit wastewater usage in emergency situations and an updated schedule including utility rate increases for 2017.
In addition, Town Council also voted to award H20 Logics a $350,000 contract which will see four solar powered lagoon aerators. Aeration is one the more common treatment methods to improve treated wastewater quality prior to discharge. Brand explained solar powered aerators are only an interim solution.
“Aeration combined with other treatment options or alternative treated effluent disposal methods such as irrigation will help, but long-term solutions are necessary to achieve wastewater quality,” said Brand.
The solar powered aerators will be installed when the ice comes off the lagoons in the Spring.