Report finds short-term solutions dealt with wastewater plant odour

Members of the public and council tour the Whitecourt Wastewater Treatment Plan on June 14, 2016, during the public input portion of Stantec Engineering Ltd.’s 2016 Odour Mitigation Report. The company reported at the Nov. 28 Regular Meeting of Council that odour mitigation efforts have been successful due to short-term measures put in place. Photo: Whitecourt Star

Town council has concluded that odour mitigation from the Wastewater Treatment Plant has been successful, at least for now.

After a presentation from Stantec Engineering Ltd. at a regular meeting of council on Nov. 28, Whitecourt Mayor Maryann Chichak said the lack of complaints this year and odour diary submissions indicated the issue has been reduced.

“The measures we’ve put in place to address it in the short term were successful,” she said.

In April 2016, Stantec began a commissioned Master Business Plan and Odour Mitigation Report for Whitecourt, and some short-term solutions were put in place to deal with the off-putting smell.

Nick Szoke, Stantec senior wastewater engineer, reported to council the odour was a symptom of a deeper issue. Too much grit and other material in the plants holding ponds were robbing the plant of capacity.

An immediate solution, which Szoke said seems to have been effective in the short-term, was to ensure the ponds are cleaned out annually. Refusing septage from outside the community was also used as a solution to reduce grit in the system.

“It’s a stopgap measure,” Szoke said. “It’s working, but we don’t know how long it’s going to work.”

Chichak said she wasn’t sure why the ponds weren’t being fully cleaned before, but it will be the main goal in the short-term to contain the odour issue. She said it was “news to us (council) that they weren’t cleaned out to capacity.

Szoke also presented Stantec’s master plan for the future of wastewater treatment in Whitecourt, which he said is synchronizing actions into a coherent capital budget for long range planning.

“It’s really the front end, the grits that are coming in the system that’s impacting everything else throughout the whole system,” he said.

Suggestions forecasted from two to 20 years into the future, and could cost anywhere from $5.3 to $8.2 million. The most pricey and immediate suggestion would be headworks upgrades that would remove grit at the front of the system, therefore increasing capacity in the lagoons. The grit would also be converted into a biofuel cake that the town could use for power, or as a form of revenue.

Coun. Chartrand said she always takes consultant’s advice with a grain of salt, as there is a financial element that benefits them if the project is pushed forward.

“Of course the engineer and the consultant is going to recommend the higher end, because it’s money for them,” she said.

Chichak said the recommendations in the report will be discussed further at council planning session in January, and will be considered for integration into the town’s 20-year capital plan.

“I think there’s a lot of really good progressive suggestions that were made by Stantec that we’re going to have to take a look at, so very encouraging,” she said.

Text by Hannah Lawson / Retrieved from Whitecourt Star