SUNDRE — The provincial government announced on Friday that it plans to invest $7.5 million to help the municipality build a new, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant.
The full-scale, electrochemical facility will be the first of its kind in Alberta and will be trialled as a pilot, potentially heralding the way for other municipalities to follow suit.
The project, whose total cost is estimated at $11.5 million, is the result of a partnership between the Town of Sundre, the Alberta government, as well as private sector technology partners.
Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding MLA and minister of Environment and Parks, met with local officials at the town office on Friday to formalize the funding announcement.
“It’s been a long road to get to where we’re at today,” said Nixon.
“One of the great challenges that we have across this province with small communities, is to figure out new ways to deal with wastewater,” he said.
“Coming up with new technology that can help us achieve those objectives for small communities is very, very exciting, and this project does that,” he said, adding he believes the pilot project has “a tremendous amount of potential” to provide solutions for other municipalities, including First Nations communities.
Mayor Terry Leslie said the municipality has endeavoured to develop plans that will reduce the impact on the Red Deer River by continuously finding ways to improve wastewater treatment.
The process to date, said Leslie, has been underway since 2017, when the municipality started exploring new options to provide safe, environmentally sound and cost-effective water treatment. The following year, the town commissioned a study of its infrastructure, including future growth projections for the community’s commercial, industrial and residential needs.
“The resulting utility master plan determined that significant upgrades to the wastewater system or an entirely new system were required to serve the growing community,” he said, adding initial capital costs ran up into the tens of millions.
But the new technology is expected to more affordably and cost-effectively treat wastewater to levels that far exceed regulatory requirements in treating for ammonia, as well as leaving open future possibilities to treat pharmaceuticals, he said.
Although not present for the announcement, Barry Morishita, Alberta Urban Municipalities Association president, issued a statement with the press release.
“Many communities in Alberta currently utilize a traditional lagoon to treat their wastewater,” reads a portion of Morishita comments.
“While lagoons are reasonably inexpensive to operate, they take up a significant amount of land, and can take up to 200 days to treat the wastewater,” he said.
“The advanced technology Sundre will deploy is more efficient and is designed specifically to outlast the lifespan of a lagoon. In comparison to a traditional lagoon, this proposed technology has a significantly smaller footprint, and can treat raw sewage in less than 60 minutes.”
The association, he added, hopes the facility will serve “as a model for other innovative and collaborative projects across Alberta.”
The new technology will be tested for one year to satisfy the requirements of short-term testing of an advanced wastewater treatment pilot plant, as authorized under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act by Alberta Environment and Parks. Construction is expected to begin this year with the facility anticipated to be completed and operational in early 2022.
Additionally, the major upgrade will not only increase the municipality’s daily flow rate thereby allowing the town to grow, but also to continue processing excess wastewater from surrounding areas.
The partnership that made the project possible will include the facility’s total construction, as well as infrastructure and all equipment required to achieve Alberta Environment and Parks standards.
“Upon successfully completing an agreed-upon testing period and meeting the discharge criteria set forth by Alberta Environment, the technology partners would be paid in full by the town within an agreed timeframe,” reads the release.
“This arrangement effectively removes all financial risk for the Town of Sundre and the Province of Alberta.”