Sechelt sewage plant malfunctions

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Christine Wood

A problem at the District of Sechelt’s new sewage treatment plant caused sewage to back up in the system for about eight hours on June 13 before operators could fix the problem and restore regular service.

“There are sensors that detect faults and there was a fault condition in the UV disinfection unit,” said Sechelt’s director of communications, Connie Jordison.

“Because there was a fault in the UV disinfection unit, other processes stopped sending water out of the water resource centre on Friday evening. All of the wastewater kept coming into the centre. The operators responded to the situation, to an alarm that goes off. They resolved the situation and resumed normal operations.”

Jordison said she could not elaborate on the problem because she didn’t have any more details.

“The operators addressed the issue. That’s all I’ve been told is that they responded to the fault condition and resolved the issue,” Jordison said.

There was enough capacity built into the wastewater treatment plant to store all of the sewage coming in during the eight-hour shutdown – which, Jordison noted, was how the system was designed.

“But, of course, you do have to respond to these things to address them or else you will run out of storage capacity,” she said.

The recent issue at the treatment plant is one of several problems with the system since it first started taking all of Sechelt’s wastewater in January.

“There have been various minor process upsets and equipment malfunctions during the commissioning period. These trigger appropriate alarms so the operators can take action,” Jordison explained.

“In all cases, they have been resolved, and the disinfection of effluent has been maintained. These events are normal during the ‘shakedown’ period for a new facility, which is typically about one year.”

The new wastewater treatment plant that sits between Ebbtide Street and Surf Circle is classified as a level 4 facility. Currently there is no one trained at that level, so the District is seeking a qualified operator.

“We currently have a level 3 and two level 2s. We had looked at maybe upgrading one of our existing people, but that would probably take too long for them to come up to that level,” Jordison said.

“To be certified as a level 4 they have to actually have worked in a level 4 facility, almost like an internship, so we’re looking at recruiting a level 4 operator to come in as both an operator and a level 4 centre manager.”

The new wastewater treatment plant on Ebbtide Street now has plants inside the greenhouse that were selected by biologists at Organica, the developers of technology that uses the roots of plants suspended in wastewater to aid in its cleaning.

The greenhouse holds all B.C. native plants, Jordison said, including ferns, alders, sedges and skunk cabbage.

“The plants were installed in February and are growing well,” she noted.

Solar panels were installed at the sewage treatment centre in May and June and turned on for the first time on June 23. The centre now has a 15-kilowatt system that feeds back into the facility’s electrical system and reduces the need for BC Hydro.

“It is expected that it will provide two per cent of the average annual electricity use,” Jordison said, adding, “The system includes an Internet-based monitoring system, which will be made accessible to the public.”

The biosolids left over at the end of the wastewater treatment process are being dewatered by centrifuge at the facility and then taken by Salish Soils for composting. There is currently a composting trial underway at Sechelt’s Dusty Road sewer facility site.

“Salish is required to produce a class A product, which is suitable for unrestricted use, and it takes about six months to do so,” Jordison noted.

The resulting water at the end of the sewage treatment process is currently being discharged into the ocean. However, it may be piped to properties for irrigation purposes in the future.

“As council has indicated, proceeding with a plan for use of reclaimed water will be an issue that will be discussed in public and will be the subject of a business case review,” Jordison said.

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