Southside residents could soon be smelling sweet relief – or at least be able to enjoy sitting outside without the unwelcome smell of sewage permeating from the nearby sewage treatment plant.
Revelstoke City Council gave its approval for the city to enter into a contract with Triplepoint Water Technologies to install aeration equipment in the first pond at the treatment plant. Council also approved an increase in the budgeted amount for the project, which now stands at $240,000.
The new aeration equipment will be installed in sewage treatment lagoon “pond one” within the next several weeks. However, it could take longer to see results or to know if the upgrade will actually work. Director of engineering Mike Thomas said the timeline for results is dependent on atmospheric temperatures, meaning the smell could dissipate within days or it could take weeks.
“I wouldn’t want to predict how long it can take. If we have 35-degree weather it can take longer,” said Thomas.
Despite the unknown timeline on results, Southside resident Chris Parker is happy to see the city taking steps to solve the now decades long sewer odour issues. Parker, who was among eight Southside residents to attend the special council meeting on Tuesday, May 29 said he felt Tuesday’s meeting was informative but questioned the city’s timeline on moving forward with the project. Some Southside residents have a meeting planned on Thursday to discuss ongoing health and emotional impacts brought about as a result of the issues with sewage smell in the neighbourhood.
“Whether or not the scheduled meeting influenced their decision I can’t say, but it is nice to have some action happening. I was very happy that Mike and a few of the councillors stuck around to answer questions. I know they’d all love to have this monkey off their back,” Parker said in an email to the Mountaineer.
In an email to the Mountaineer, Thomas said city staff were not aware of any community meetings being planned when discussion about the special council meetings occurred late last week.
“I’m really not sure when the residents started planning a meeting, but it’s not really a coincidence either, calling it a coincidence would suggest that there is no causal relationship between the two events, the sewer treatment plant odour caused and demanded a response from the city, just as it had spurred the community to set up a neighbourhood meeting and for some of those residents to attend the special council meeting,” said Thomas.
The special council meeting also provided an opportunity for the public to be informed of the planned work on the sewer treatment plant. The project will see contractor Triplepoint work with city staff to replace and upgrade the aeration technology currently in use in pond one. Thomas said the current aerators in pond one are difficult to maintain. The new system will include a manifold on the shoreline making them easier for operators to manage and maintain. It’s something Thomas said is more of a maintenance project that is required due to the age of the current aerators.
“Unfortunately we’re doing it at the same time there’s an odour issue,” said Thomas.
The return of the sewage smell triggered the city to ramp up discussions with Triplepoint, finalizing the construction plan. With the next regular council meeting not scheduled until June 12, Thomas said senior staff decided along with Mayor Mark McKee that it was necessary to speed up the process.
“We felt that waiting until the 12th would only delay the date of installation by another three weeks, which was clearly going to be an unacceptable to the community if the odour continues,” he said.
Councillor Gary Sulz, who lives in the Southside neighbourhood, said he and other councillors are very aware of the impacts the ongoing sewer smell is having. City councillors spent the better part of an hour asking Thomas questions about the sewer treatment plant prior to making the decision to install new aerators at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We want residents to realize we’re not giving up doing what we’re doing just because we’re spending $200,000 on something. We on council are very much aware there is an issue,” he said.
There is still a need for the city to look at the need for long-term upgrades to the sewer treatment plant. Thomas said with the need to replace the sewer treatment plant within the next five to 10 years, the city needs to ensure it’s not just throwing money at the problem without appreciating the possibility of spending tens of millions of dollars on a new plant in the near future.
“We did not plan to trigger this work and the expense unless the odour problem recurred, particularly with a potential future, expensive upgrade of the plant on the horizon,” he said.
Parker said he believes the city could see a drop in costs associated with the sewage treatment plant if a more proactive approach were used.
“It’s time for the city to put off the issues of beautification and entertainment. It’s time they start being more proactive than reactive and they would notice the costs drop considerably,” he said.