The District of Squamish has had to switch its Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) to backup operations after a mechanical failure in a clarifier tank.

District Public Works senior staff met with Council yesterday to discuss the need for emergency repairs required. The rotating steel structure in the circular clarifier tank suffered a serious mechanical failure, rendering the tank out of commission. The plant has continued seamless operations by switching over to its backup system, which utilizes an older clarifier tank to process the wastewater. The plant is continuing to operate as normal and is meeting all provincial standards.

“District crews are doing everything in their power to prevent or minimize any environmental impacts while this repair work is undertaken,” said Gary Buxton, general manager of Community Planning and Infrastructure. “A number of safeguards have been implemented to ensure that the backup tank’s capacity is not exceeded and overwhelmed.”

The repairs are expected to cost a minimum of $110,500, though the costs could rise to three-to-four times that amount should there be additional challenges during repairs. The District has maintained a Sewer Reserve Fund for unplanned maintenance such as this and is the recommended source for funding. The full extent of the damage will not be known until the steel structure is taken apart and repair crews can fully investigate. The cause of the failure is also being examined and investigated.

“This situation is concerning and I would like to commend Public Works staff for their dedication, hard work and level heads in a stressful and challenging situation,” said District of Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman. “We appreciate the work they do every day to ensure our community services remain uninterrupted for citizens, and that the environmental impact of these services is utmost in their minds.”

As is required in the event of any changes in procedures or complications at the WWTP, the District informed the BC Ministry of Environment to ensure effluent flowing into the Squamish River is closely monitored. The District stated that the backup holding tank is working well, but that it has a lower capacity than the primary tank, and recent heavy rains have been causing concern, as they are adding to the volume of water in the tank.

In the event that the backup tank passes peak capacity, other safeguards are in place, including:

  • The out of commission holding tank would be available to help reduce the flow to the backup tank;
  • The Ultra Violet disinfection system that was added in 2017 has been increased in level in order to further disinfect the treated wastewater prior to it entering the river.
  • Constant monitoring of the treated wastewater is underway, and the Ministry of Environment is also engaged and monitoring.

A full cost and timeline for the repairs will be finalized once the extent of the damage is understood.

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