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Bells and whistles

The recent expansion and upgrade of the Snug Cove Wastewater Treatment Plant was selected as one of the five notable mentions in Water's Next innovation category.

The recent expansion and upgrade of the Snug Cove Wastewater Treatment Plant was selected as one of the five notable mentions in Water's Next innovation category. Water's Next is an initiative of Water Canada that recognizes significant contributions to Canada's waterscape. Councillor Cro Lucas said, "[Wastewater treatment] is not a subject we necessarily want to know too much about but we have achieved something that is quite outstanding."

Lucas said, "[The treatment plant] is very green and very avant-garde. We've done a forward-moving, environmentally engineered upgrade with a bigger picture in mind. The credit goes to Wil Hilsen and staff who worked with ECOfluid. From council's side, David Wrinch and I were the co-chairs that moved the project forward."

Lucas was involved in securing the funding. He said, "When we applied for the grant, my challenge was to get the greenest little micro-system we could. I dealt with deputy ministers and they agreed that this was a worthwhile endeavour."

The municipality matched the grant money with surplus funds and staff worked closely with ECOfluid to come up with a facility that meets Bowen's growing requirements, said Lucas. He added, "We increased the size of the plant so we can connect more houses. And we did an upgrade that ensured that the affluent going into Howe Sound would be pure. The affluent could even be used as recycled water for instance for irrigation or for flushing toilets in nearby buildings."

Brent Mahood, CAO of the Bowen Island Municipality, said, "What makes this facility noteworthy is the level of treatment and the quality of the affluent that is higher than most plants in the Lower Mainland. We are churning out better quality water but we haven't added any new users yet." Mahood explained that the sewage treatment plant also has the potential to accept septic waste from areas even beyond the Snug Cove sewer area and, in theory, deal with it on island.

Lucas said, "We started with a plant that was undersized, overworked and out of date. Now, we have double the capacity and septic tanks can be emptied right here on island. The increased capacity means that project like Abbeyfield and Belterra can move forward."

Lucas said that the municipality is exploring options of recovering its portion of the cost of the sewage treatment plant. He also pointed out that the facility allows for future business opportunities. "It has all kinds of bells and whistles that allow us to do things in the future," he said. "One component is sludge thickening. It is a business waiting to be explored that can lower the carbon footprint and create potential on-island employment." The concept is to pick up septic waste and, through the sludge thickening process, reduce it to bales of dryer material that can be mixed with green waste, Lucas explained. Together with green waste, the material could be cooked and potentially turned into topsoil.

"It is ultimately desirable to deal with waste on island," Lucas said. "At the moment, we are paying someone to ship sewage off the island and we bring in hundreds of truckloads of exactly the same product from North Vancouver."

This aspect found resonance when the municipality applied for the government grant. Lucas said, "The feedback was: this is fabulous. We are looking for communities that have aspirations."