By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Oct 11, 2014
It’s a truck ride that costs the taxpayers $350,000 every year, but questions are now being raised about its cost effectiveness. District of Squamish pays Carneys Waste System $350,000 to haul bio-solids from the Squamish waste water treatment plant to Whistler.
Bio-solids are a by-product of sanitary sewage treatment and tipping fees is also involved. Typically, treated liquid waste is dewatered into sludge, which is referred to as bio-solids and then trucked to Whistler for composting.
Some of the bio-solids that can’t be processed in the Callaghan facility are then also trucked back to Squamish and transferred to Carney’s Waste Systems, which sells the product to local nurseries, landscapers and developers.
On average, 153,292 kilograms of bio-solids is trucked to Whistler every month. The district is concerned about the financial and environmental cost of the operation. The distance between the Callaghan facility in Whistler and Squamish is close to 40 kms.
Based on the average daily production rates, the truck travels 29,000 km back and forth every year, consuming about 11,970 litres of diesel.
To put it into environmental perspective, there are 31 tons of GHG emissions for 2.6 litres of diesel.
District consultant, Urban Systems, suggest the bio-solids can be used as an energy source through a neighbourhood energy utility or find ways to use the compost locally. Meantime, the consultants suggest district write up a long-term plan with Whistler and create suitable conditions so the bio-solid can be used locally.
Effluents in the river
The environmental cost of trucking isn’t the only cost worrying the district. Just downstream from the plant is a favourite place to fish but locals may not know the plant releases some untreated effluents into the Squamish River.
As the district set about to updated its waste management plan, it will have follow new standards set by the provincial government. And that would mean having to remove phosphorous and fecal coliform from what it discharges into the water.
The district currently operates in a ‘grey zone’ said Ehren Lee of Urban Systems, the company hired for the Liquid Waste Management Plan. Once the plan is submitted to the province, the plant must be in compliance on effluent treatment, although that compliance isn’t required at this moment.
“When LWMP will be approved by the minister, that is when you would need to be in compliance,” he added.
The district has several options to disinfect waste water, including chlorination, oxidation and ultraviolet light treatment. Council agreed they should bring the plant in compliance as soon as possible and voted to keep money in the next budget for it.
UV treatment is effective at inactivating pathogens that are unaffected by chlorine. The treatment also doesn’t involve the addition of chemicals and doesn’t produce any harmful by-products.
The UV treatment will cost the district close to $1 million.
It’s the top complaint that councilors and the district receives, but the stench will only go away with money. The district has marked $1 million as a contingency for capital improvements to address odour issues.
The consultant recommends the district install an odour monitoring system in 2015 and conduct further studies in 2015, 2017 and 2019. It will cost the taxpayers $6.5 million to upgrade the plant.
A Mamquam WWTP was originally constructed in 1973, with a second plant servicing south Squamish. An upgrade in 1996 resulted in expansion of the Mamquam WWTP.