SELKIRK, Man. – The city’s wastewater treatment plant was honoured last month by the Red River Basin Commission (RRBC) with the presentation of its North Chapter Award, in recognition of Selkirk’s contribution and commitment to water management and water protection through projects and initiatives.

Charles Posthumus, Chair of the RRBC North Chapter, first presented the award at the organization’s annual fish gala dinner and then appeared at Selkirk Council March 25 to offer congratulations.

“The reason Selkirk won is because of the new wastewater treatment plant,” Posthumus said.

“Not only for the water coming out of the plant but the reusing of the water that can be used in industry. Your award is for your beautiful plant. What’s better than water going back into the river that’s clean. Congratulations on being this year’s recipient.

The RRBC is a charitable, not-for-profit organization designed to help facilitate a cooperative approach to water management within the basin – which encompasses parts of Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota – and is a well-established forum for identifying, developing, and implementing solutions to cross-boundary issues.

Mayor Larry Johannson says the award means a lot.

“To receive recognition from the Red River Basin Commission is a big deal,” Johannson said.

“We are proud of our wastewater treatment plant and we know it’s an investment in our city and our environment, but to have such a respected organization take notice, it’s an honour.”

Last year’s winner of the RRBC North Chapter Award was the Village of Dunnottar for its use of duckweed, a small aquatic plant that removes excess phosphorus, in its wastewater lagoon.

Tracy Schmidt, Manitoba’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, along with a delegation of MLAs toured the wastewater treatment plant with Johannson and members of council on March 25. The group came to see the plant, which since its opening in 2021 has been recognized for its barely visible environmental footprint, fossil-fuel free operation, innovative re-use of water, smart design that allows for cost-effective growth and its role as a centre of excellence.

The treatment plant is a state-of-the-art facility. It makes use of the best technology there is to turn wastewater from a pollutant responsible for deteriorating the water quality and plant life of the Re River and Lake Winnipeg into water that is not only potentially suitable for consumption but can be reused for several practical purposes.

The membrane filtration can turn this former waste product back into a valuable commodity, as reclaimed water can be used by future, nearby industry and hopefully one day will be used in the production of food products, like beer – something that’s already being done in Calgary.

The results of wastewater treated by the membrane filtration system are shocking, even to the city’s Utilities Manager Raven Sharma.

“It’s the clearest treated wastewater I have ever seen,” Sharma said.

“I’ve never treated wastewater that clear, so by using state-of-the-art technology, that’s the type of wastewater that we’re putting back into the environment. That’s cool.”

The treatment plant has been operating for almost three years now, but Sharma said she couldn’t believe what she was seeing when it first went into operation.

“I was in shock because I have seen other membrane filtration working in Manitoba and I’ve never seen anything this clear. It gave me goosebumps,” she said.

“I think this is amazing because I take pride in the environment. It makes me feel really good about what we’re doing. We’re putting this into the environment and thinking about the fish and all the aquatic life. We’re thinking about our impact on these ecosystems. We’re doing the right thing by investing for the future. It’s huge.”

Selkirk CAO Duane Nicol said the treated wastewater will eventually have other uses in industry and in the long run the city hopes to transform all waste products into valuable inputs for other processes.

“Waste is the enemy. Not only do we want to reduce the environmental footprint of our planet, we want to reduce the environmental impact of our whole city,” Nicol said.

“We believe it’s possible to take all these former waste products and turn them into valuable, revenue-generating products. In a world of finite resources and a growing population, we absolutely must build a more circular economy if we are going to thrive in the future. We are doing that work right now, right here in Selkirk.”


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