Waste from Red Deer’s overfilled sewage lagoons has been fertilizing farmers’ fields in Central Alberta all summer and fall.
Space has been freed up in the sewage lagoons for new wastewater from Sylvan Lake and the summer villages when these municipalities connect to Red Deer’s waste water treatment centre in the spring.
Tim Ainscough, environmental services manager for the city, said there’s no longer a concern about local lagoons overflowing, even though other regional sewage, including wastewater from Lacombe and Blackfalds, is already being treated in Red Deer.
A million dollars from last year’s city operating budget was allotted to a two-year “emergency” project to deal with overfull sewage lagoons in 2018 and 2019.
It entailed hiring contractor Lambourne Environmental to spread extra human waste as fertilizer on fallow farmers’ fields in the summer as well as after the fall harvest. Heat first removes bacterial matter, said Ainscough.
Spreading people poop had been done as a matter of course by the city after crops were taken off the fields in the fall, but harsh autumn weather over the past couple of years hindered the practice, causing a backup of wastewater in the lagoons, said Ainscough.
About 4,800 dry tonnes of waste from the lagoons was spread last summer and throughout October (September’s cold weather caused a temporary delay). This leaves only about 1,000 tonnes to be spread in the first week of November, he added.
Next summer and fall, another 5,700 dry tonnes of sewage from the lagoons will be spread on fields again — which should leave the city caught up, said Ainscough.
He noted overfilled lagoons should soon be a thing of the past, since the city is in the initial design stage of planning for a dewatering facility. When built in 2020 or 2021, it will turn wet wastes into dry wastes for storage.
When needed as fertilizer, water can be added, said Ainscough.