OLDS — Olds College is only $530,000 short of its fundraising goal for its $3.2 million Treatment Wetlands and Botanical Garden.
Construction is expected to begin in the summer.
“We’re very, very close,” said senior development officer Charllotte Adkens-Weiler at a presentation on the project this week at the college.
“We have $1.3 million in the bank and another $1 million in pledges.
“We’ve hired a project manager and a construction manager who will start to look at the various phases. It’s moving quite fast.”
The province has so far contributed $550,000 in matching grants through its Access to the Future Fund.
About 100 acres near Hwy 27 has been set aside at the college for the wetlands and gardens.
The wetlands will be used by instructors and students to develop, demonstrate and test new ways to treat water from agricultural or industrial runoff.
As land is developed, native wetlands are being lost and so is the environment’s ability to store and purify water.
Swimming pools that use salt as a disinfectant, coal bed methane activities, runoff from farms and de-icing facilities all have salt that make them less than ideal for traditional wastewater treatment plants.
The innovative project at Olds College will have desalinization system and wetland ponds to remove chemicals like chlorine and nutrients like nitrates and phosphorus.
About 65 people from government, industry and environmental groups came out to learn more about the project.
Olds College president Tom Thompson said the project’s momentum has picked up in the last two months.
Different levels of government and industry continue to make sustainability a higher priority despite the economic downturn and they are looking for a place where solutions can be found.