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Wastewater Treatment Plant capacity increase allows more hookups, but further fixes needed

Foxglove Lane lots can now be connected; discharge issues emerge
The Snug Cove Wastewater Treatment Plant in September 2023.

There was both progress and a bit of setback in the most recent update on the Snug Cove Sewer System.

The Snug Cove Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) has been dealing with capacity issues for the past several years. These came to the forefront in January 2022 when all sewage hookups were paused for new builds in the local service area. This meant anyone seeking an occupancy permit for their home would need to build a septic system on the property.

For a half-dozen property owners on Foxglove Lane this wasn’t possible due to the narrow geography of the lots. But, following 20 months of work on the WWTP, which included Phase 1 upgrades to the plant itself along with repairing 17 manholes to prevent leaks into the system, there is finally enough capacity to connect the six lots in question to the sewage system. “We’re grateful for the patience of those property owners,” said CAO Liam Edwards during the Sept. 11 council meeting.

The main repair at the plant involved installing an equalization storage tank to treat wastewater, which was previously being done by a bioreactor. The new tank allows greater amounts of inflow to be retained and treated.

While the fixes are a step toward solving the sewage saga, on two occasions this summer the system’s outfall pipe which runs past Dorman Point severed, resulting in premature discharge. Both were fixed by underwater dive teams, and some cleanup on land, but Edwards said the cost and time involved with repeatedly doing this is “starting to become challenging for the service area to sustain.”

The situation worsened last month when the pipe stopped discharging wastewater, forcing a broken section to be removed. This currently results in discharge being pumped into Snug Cove instead of the Queen Charlotte Channel, which does not fulfill the municipality’s discharge agreement with the Ministry of Environment. Edwards suggested that due to this failure, replacement of the outfall pipe be expedited to next year’s budget. The cost for the recommended new 250 mm pipe (the current broken pipe is 75 mm) is around $974,000.

Edwards also addressed a smell which he and others have observed in the Cove. There’s been suggestion its origin is discharge at the WWTP, but Edwards said the exact origin of the smell can’t yet be confirmed. The CAO said it’s possible the outfall pipe ruptures are disturbing the seabed, and the buried organics that are released are causing the smell. Odours at the plant which may be coming from a new attenuation tank are also being looked at.

Phase 2 of the WWTP upgrades, with the goal to enable sewage hookups to the remaining unconnected lots in Snug Cove as well as future lots over the next two decades, was previously estimated at approximately $6 million. Edwards says identifying funding for such a large amount is proving difficult, and it may be wise to investigate the possibility of breaking the upgrades into smaller phases. Coming up with this plan will involve predicting future development of the Cove, as well as outlooks beyond the 20-year timeframe, such as potentially adding Deep Bay to the sewage system.

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