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Municipality combats odour problems

$30,000 spent on weekend repairs to recently upgraded wastewater treatment plant

The municipality poured another $30,000 into the newly upgraded wastewater treatment plant this week in an attempt to combat foul odours that were escaping from the facility.

Even though $37.8 million was spent over the past three years on revamping the sewage plant, several residents and employees recently filed complaints at municipal hall about a strong stench in the south end of Whistler.

The mayor spoke about these complaints with the rest of council at the public meeting on Aug. 17. Council decided to look into the issue further.

According to Joe Paul, acting manager of development services, the municipality promptly hired two consultants to check out the facility's odour control systems. After receiving both their reports, his department commissioned Spantec Consulting Engineers to get rid of the smell.

Paul said the consultants found the media (or filtration material) in the wastewater treatment plant's odour control system was not effectively blocking odour molecules from escaping.

"The specifications for the media were put in place years ago, when the plant was under design," Paul said Monday. "It is only under operational conditions that sometimes you find your specified material perhaps needed some adjustment. That is the kind of situation we found ourselves in. Under the actual conditions, the specific material wasn't optimal."

Following through with Spantec Consulting Engineers' recommendations, the municipality took out the old media and replaced it with a new media.

Work began last Wednesday and wrapped up on Saturday, at a cost of approximately $30,000.

Paul said the changes so far appear to have nipped the problem in the bud, and the aroma coming from the wastewater treatment plant since Sunday is much weaker.

"This is a fairly small change to the plant," he added. "It is not an enormous alteration. It is merely a start up review and specification of some materials to optimize odour controls."

Whistler's wastewater treatment plant was constructed in 1978 and expanded in the late 1980s and again in 1997.

To meet the growing demand in Whistler, the municipality also did a major upgrade to the plant between 2007 and 2009, with work finishing just months before the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Paul added this week that other than the odour problem, the wastewater treatment plant is running properly.

"The systems are performing quite well," he said. "The new treatment system is performing remarkably well, and the district energy system is also performing remarkably well."