Sewer services snag delays Wilson Beach

Lacombe County officials want proof a composting system for sewage will work before allowing a proposed 88-lot subdivision on Gull Lake to go further through the approval process.

Lacombe County officials want proof a composting system for sewage will work before allowing a proposed 88-lot subdivision on Gull Lake to go further through the approval process.

Wilson’s Beach Estates has been proposed for a 150-acre site on land owned by Joe and Helen Doef on the east side of the lake. A public hearing was held last month prior to council considering second reading of a rezoning bylaw for the project.

County regulations now require new developments to use communal waste water systems instead of individual septic tanks that were common in the past.

Wilson’s Beach Estates developer Kirk Miller said the problem is many communal systems are not suited to developments close to lakes. Miller is proposing a disposal system that would convert waste water into organic potting soil. The system uses low-flush vacuum toilets that suck black water from toilets into composting bins located behind houses.

Water from bathtubs, sinks and washing machines could be treated and used for irrigation or injected into the ground during winter months. To protect the environment, homeowners would be required to use phosphate-free cleaning products.

County commissioner Terry Hager told council last week that second reading of a rezoning bylaw for Wilson’s Beach Estates should not be considered until more details about the waste disposal technology are known.

“The way I left it with (the developer) is the door is not closed,” he said. However, the county needs scientific evidence the systems will work before the development will be allowed to proceed to second reading. Hager said the county is working with Alberta Environment but has not been told yet what sorts of waste systems will be acceptable in new developments.

Miller is confident that the compost toilet systems will be part of the answer to the problem of how to develop near lakes without harming water bodies and causing algae growth.

“The track record is sterling with composting toilets,” he said from his San Francisco office. He also has an office in Red Deer.

Handling grey water poses a bigger challenge, but Miller is also confident that technology he has researched will provide a solution.

One option involves the use of greenhouses and ultraviolet and ozone disinfection systems. Another system uses treatment beds of clay and peat. Both techniques provide a final product that can safely be used for irrigation or dispersed underground.

“Everything we’re proposing already exists. We’re not inventing new technology,” he said.

Miller said he has been working with Alberta Environment and Alberta Municipal Affairs, which have been open to new technologies. He hopes to have a report prepared for the county in June, when second reading could be held.

“What we’re doing is ground breaking,” he said. “I think it could set a standard to solve a lot of problems around lakes.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com