Like much of the Central Alberta region, Lacombe is experiencing growth pressures due to its strong residential, commercial, industrial and institutional sectors, and the resultant population growth is placing pressure on our municipal wastewater treatment infrastructure, which has reached capacity.
The City is collaborating with Lacombe County and the Town of Blackfalds to advocate for the north leg of the Central Alberta Regional Wastewater System (CARWWS) project. This project will see the construction of a 24km wastewater line that will tie into the Central Alberta Regional Wastewater Line, and will connect Lacombe, Lacombe County, and Blackfalds to the regional wastewater treatment facility in Red Deer.
This system was identified as a community need by Alberta Environment in 2005, and was recommended in provincially funded studies in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
In the interim, the City has been undertaking upgrades, whenever feasible, to extend the useful life and capacity of our wastewater treatment facilities. In recent years however, we have more than doubled the amount of aeration available for our lagoon system, and have installed costly curtain baffles to our treatment cells.
Unfortunately these measures, while successful in allowing continued operations, do not provide for a sustainable long-term solution to ensure public health or mitigate negative environmental impacts. Our partner municipalities are dealing with similar challenges, and we now face the prospect of completing upgrades to our wastewater treatment systems, with capital costs expected to rival those of regionalization.
Without a regional solution, we face costly upgrades to our wastewater facilities, simply to limp by. This is not a prudent use of taxpayer dollars.
Moreover, provincial regulations will require that we implement a mechanical waste treatment system when the City’s population reaches the 20,000 threshold, which is expected within 20 years.
The wastewater line will provide an economically sustainable and environmentally responsible means for long-term wastewater treatment in the growing region. We already have a successful partnership with Blackfalds and Lacombe County in the stable management and operation of a regional water line, which has a right-of-way that has been suitably sized for the inclusion of the proposed wastewater line. The City also has had experience in managing large provincially-funded infrastructure projects, such as the recent Hwy. 2A upgrades, in a financially responsible manner.
From an environmental perspective, the project would lower the risk of degradation and contamination by providing a higher level of wastewater treatment on an ongoing basis, and enable us to exceed the minimum provincial standards for treated effluent quality. It will also allow us to respond more easily to changes in standards, and to capitalize on opportunities provided by new technologies.
We are seeking approvals from Alberta Transportation for a funding model that represents a 90/10 split, with the province providing 90% of the capital costs, and the municipalities contributing 10%. Upon securing a commitment from the ministry, our efforts will focus on working with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to obtain approvals.
Awaiting a scheduled meeting with Minister of Transportation Wayne Drysdale, I’m hopeful progress can be made on a funding commitment from the government, so we can move forward. To get an early start, we are looking into a phased-in approach, in an attempt to amortize the cost of construction over a five-10 year period.
As mayor, and as chair of the North Red Deer Waste Water Services Commission, I feel that it is vital that we be proactive and keep in front of our infrastructure needs in order to address growth, now and into the future.
Steve Christie is the mayor of Lacombe.