Temporarily hauling effluent to Red Deer will keep the Town of Sylvan Lake’s critical wastewater from becoming even worse and help avert an environmental crisis in the coming days.
Joanne Gaudet, communications officer with the town, said Wednesday the town is looking at a multi-faceted approach to solving its current problem of running out of wastewater storage space.
Part of the immediate solution but beyond the town’s control would be for the rain to stop. The town has had a lot more rain this summer over a short period of time, Gaudet said.
People who have illegally tied their sump pumps into the town’s wastewater system are adding to the problem. Clean storm water has no use in the town’s wastewater system, she added.
Also part of an immediate solution is to haul the effluent from the town to the another community. The town has had positive discussions with the City of Red Deer this week, she said, adding that hauling could start as soon as today.
The town also has one decommissioned wastewater cell that was used as a snow dump and it is hoping to get permission from Alberta Environment to bring it back on line shortly. This will also help a bit.
The town is permitted to discharge its effluent twice a year into Cygnet Lake via Cygnet Creek, providing tests of the effluent show it will not kill fish.
New wastewater regulations kicked in on Jan. 1, 2015, under the federal Fisheries Act. The town wasn’t expecting this to be a big issue, Gaudet said.
But tests that showed the effluent did not meet new standards meant the town hasn’t been able to discharge it since the fall of 2015, she said. While the problem in part would solve itself through aeration and time, rain has reduced effluent storage capacity.
Previous, current and future budgets have been dealing with making improvements to the town’s water infrastructure, and the town has been strategic with the projects it has approved, said Gaudet.
The town is meeting provincial regulations but not federal regulations, she said.
“If anything, we underestimated our ability to meet these regulations, and that’s something we’re trying to get under control now.”
“If (the effluent) overflowed, we would have an environmental crisis.” However the town is optimistic this can be averted “barring any further unknowns.”
The town has asked people to help reduce the amount of waste water by being proactive such as only doing full loads on laundry, flushing toilets less and showering less.
The public seems to be supportive, Gaudet said.
Council held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to give administration direction and approval to deal with the immediate problem.
“Part of the urgency is we’re looking at the forecast,” she said.