City of Kimberley discusses plans for wastewater treatment plant

The $35 million project is in the preliminary design stage

Kimberley City Council is moving forward with plans for a new wastewater treatment facility with the help of Urban Systems.

Urban Systems is an inter-disciplinary professional practice providing strategic planning, engineering, environmental science and urban design services to both public and private sector clients throughout Western Canada.

Kimberley’s current wastewater treatment plant was built in 1967 and upgraded in 1979. It is located near the St. Mary River in what is described as a vulnerable location due to flooding and high groundwater. The plant also uses an outdated treatment process with minimal automation, redundancy, safeguards and capacity for future growth.

It has been described by the Ministry of Environment as the highest risk facility in the region. It is difficult to operate, creates nuisance noise and odour and sometimes cannot meet the required effluent criteria.

At a regular City Council meeting on Monday August 14, Council approved Urban Systems to move forward with the preliminary design stage for the new Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF).

The proposed facility will be an Organica Food Chain Reactor (FCR) and it will be the first of its kind in North America. It is an innovative process that combines living plants and fixed growth media to achieve high treatment in capacity in a small footprint.

The FCR combines the roots of plants and fixed growth media (a woven textile) to create high biomass aerated tanks. The fixed growth media retain lots of biomass and plants roots create a complex environment that increases biodiversity in the tanks. The increased biodiversity improves the treatment process and reduces the amount of biosolids removed from the process. Solids are removed from the treated water by clarification and filtration creating a high-quality effluent that is suitable for many reuse applications.

Urban Systems says there should be no noticeable smell outside of the facility, as it will be fully enclosed and all foul air will be captured and treated by odour control equipment before released to the environment.

The current facility will cost approximately $35 million to replace, funded under the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund. Under this fund, the Government of Canada provides 50 per cent, the Government of BC provides 33 per cent and the City of Kimberley provides 17 per cent of the project costs. The construction phase is not yet funded but the City actively continues to pursue government grants for future phases. With that, it will be a large project for the City, so it is important to consider population size and growth in the plans for the new facility.

Director of Operations for the City of Kimberley, Mike Fox explained in a report to council that Urban Systems requested an early review and agreement on the chosen design flows and loads to ensure that the preliminary design stage proceeds on time and on budget.

“Changes later in the process could result in additional design costs and delays associated with re-work,” said the report. “The sizing of the WWTF depends on the population growth, which determines the flows and loads for the design.

“It is important for Council to confirm the criteria that the WWTF will be designed to and the factors that affect the sizing of the plant. Any changes in the design factors at a later date will cost the tax payers time and money. It is key that the City provides directions to Urban Systems on how to move forward on the design as the WWTF design grant completion deadline is March 31, 2018.”

Urban Systems explained in their preliminary design outline that there are four population types which contribute to Kimberley’s wastewater flows; permanent residential population, recreational residential population, residential tourist population (hotel accommodation) and day-trip residential population.

Urban Systems is basing their preliminary design on a population of 9015 average annual residents until the year 2041.

At the Council meeting, Jan Korinek from Urban Systems was present to answer questions with regards to the preliminary design.

Councillor Albert Hoglund asked, “why would we go with the average annual residence of 9,000? Why wouldn’t we go to 10,000 or 11,000? The way the population is increasing; why would we hold on that number?”

Korinek replied, “In general, our process has been to look at historical data to establish growth and to then, in turn, face forward and try to project future growth. After reviewing all of the data, it has lead us to this point. So we haven’t sort-of chosen this number arbitrarily; through our review and calculations arrived at a population of 9,015.”

Korinek explained that a threshold of 10,000 triggers a BC Environmental assessment.

“It’s not the reason we chose 9,015,” said Korinek. “It’s just something you should be aware of. The other thing to consider is when we’re protecting future growth outside of a technical review, then you start to get into an area where you might be over-building too soon. In other words, the 9,015 is the [estimated] population in the year 2041; that’s a 25 year horizon. That builds you a plant that’s going to last for 25 years, that’s the premise. If we start to change that population to say 10,000 or 11,000 or 12,000 without having the scientific base for that number, than you take the risk of over spending and over-sizing too soon.”

Mayor Don McCormick explained that Urban System’s preliminary design stage is based on sewage flows and loads for a permanent residential growth rate of 0.6 per cent and a recreational property residential growth rate of 0.9 per cent, for a total of 1.5 per cent growth.

“1.5 per cent is what we have been growing at for the past ten years, according to the last two censuses,” said McCormick. “Which is a reasonable average growth rate; I think that covers us for what our run rate is.”

Councillor Darryl Oakley said, “Our population, if it’s based on real estate this summer, ten years from now it’s going to be a very different sized City. I really believe that. So I think, if we go with the population estimates that are given, that’s fine, I would just want it to be in a location where you would be able to easily expand this thing. That’s my concern; with the current potential location.”

Korinek explained that there are three different ways to address that issue, one is creating capacity by researching and addressing the extraneous flow that Kimberley currently experiences, the second is the possibility of expanding the proposed site in terms of the property footprint (wether it’s through acquisition of adjacent properties for further expansion or adding outbuildings), and the third option is the installation of what Urban Systems refer to as a satellite pod.

“You’ve got a good opportunity,” said Korinek. “The best reason, we think, to do the pods; it’s kind of coupled with the capacity, but you’ve got a good opportunity to re-use the effluent. That’s a pretty cutting edge situation. You’ve got a golf course and a ski hill, so effluent could be re-used for irrigation to replace potable water, which is what is being used now. You can also replace snow making which, again, is currently potable water. So you’ve got benefits there regardless.

The other good thing about the location of those two effluent reuse opportunities is that the location is upstream of future development lands. If you were to create a satellite pod, which would treat to a level that could be reused, and then discharge separately from the proposed plant down at the St. Mary River, then you are hiding off that flow that would normally go down to that proposed plant and creating capacity.

The ultimate direction needs a bit of investigation; we can’t make that decision right here, right now, but those are good conditions. Not every community has that type of situation.”

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