Cleaner, clearer water will flow back into the Red Deer River this spring from Red Deer’s water treatment plant, following the completion of a $28-million project.
The city’s new residuals management plant, which was five years in the making, is almost ready for start-up, said Alex Monkman, water superintendent for the City of Red Deer.
The goal is to have healthier aquatic life in the Red Deer River as fish will no longer be exposed to deposits of chemical-soaked sand.
“I get excited to see a project like this completed and working… It’s been a long process,” he added.
Construction has taken two years, after three years of planning. Monkman said the project was somewhat delayed because of COVID challenges and design complexity. “We are in the process of starting it up. We’re testing the tanks, the pumps and the chemical systems.”
Monkman explained that whenever water is drawn from the river for drinking purposes, sedimentation has to be filtered out at the treatment plant. This separated sand is then treated with chemicals so it will settle in the holding tanks.
The new residuals plant will remove chemicals from the sand, and the silty material will then be landfilled, instead of returned to the river.
Observant city residents will actually be able to notice cleaner, silt-free water being returned to the river from a new outtake system, said Monkman, who added the discharge won’t have the greyish colour it previously had from sand and chemicals.
Residents will also notice a new outflow system in the middle of the river.
Monkman said the water being released will be better quality; “We will no longer be releasing any solids into the river. Solids can kill fish if they don’t get diluted fast enough, or if they create pockets where they settle.”
The provincial government has been mandating the installation of residual treatment plants across Alberta, starting with Edmonton and Calgary, which already have them on-stream, and continuing with Red Deer, Lethbridge and other mid-sized cities.
Monkman said the new residuals plant, which will not require extra staff to operate but needed Alberta Environment approval, is required for the city to get its provincial water license renewed. The cost will be paid for out of the city’s utility reserves.
The City of Red Deer treats drinking water for about 130,000 central Albertans, including residents of Blackfalds, Lacombe, Ponoka, Red Deer County, and Lacombe County.
Last year, the City’s water treatment plant produced 14,700,000 cubic metres of drinking water.