LWMP Stage 3 Update

On Monday, March 31 at 2 PM the City is holding a Liquid Waste Management Steering Committee Meeting – open to the public – at City Hall. At this meeting, Councillors will vote on a recommendation to give final approval to co-treatment, the plan to transfer treatment of the city’s sewage to Catalyst.

The final version of the 252 page co-treatment plan was only made public on March 27. The full agenda, including the plan can be found here on the City’s website.

Some key points to raise at this meeting, or by emailing City Councillors are:

– Going back on their promise not to do co-treatment without paying for it with a grant.

 Councillors promised in 2011 they would only approve co-treatment if they got a 100% grant to pay for it.[1] The grant was turned down. Now they are planning to implement co-treatment even if they don’t get any money at all from senior governments and Powell River taxpayers have to pay the entire $10,065,000 cost.[2]  This would require a steep hike in the annual sewer charge.

If the mill shuts down in the near future, the City will have depleted its sewer reserve by spending on co-treatment, have to build its own public plant in short order when grants may not be available, and have wasted $1.7 million connecting the City sewer lines to the mill.

– Ignoring public consultation.

Rather than a “stop gap” measure for the City until it can build its own plant, the plan says co-treatment will last until 2032 and only then is Council considering building a public plant.[3]

The Joint Advisory Committee appointed by Council rejected co-treatment in favour of the City building its own plant.  The City’s public consultation results showed that 72% preferred that City build its own plant and 11% opted for co-treatment.  Yet the final version of the plan claims it is based on “the public feedback received” and that “effective public consultation” is essential to develop municipal sewage plans.  [4]

– Harming the environment
Co-treatment would result in Powell River being able to get away with lowering its standard for sewage treatment – the provincial Ministry of the Environment would allow the lower industrial standard to be apply rather than the higher municipal one.  The test results for mill treatment of City sewage showed that fecal coliform counts would be far beyond what is acceptable for recreational use.

The final plan also includes the potential for dumping raw sewage directly into the ocean during planned  temporary mill shutdowns.  The raw sewage could be stored in an enormous abandoned “clarifier” that the City would buy from the mill. [5]The abandoned clarifier is located close to homes on Marine.

Worse, the use of the City’s sewer reserve fund to pay for co-treatment and the planned dismantling of its Westview treatment plant means raw sewage could have to be dumped into the ocean in the event of a mill shutdown.

On March 17 at the sewer budget meeting the Mayor revealed that the City still does not have guaranteed access to the mill’s treatment plant if Catalyst goes bankrupt.  The City still does not know if Catalyst’s treatment plant can even work if it is only treating City sewage. Yet the City is planning on giving final approval to this plan without these and other key facts.

If you cannot attend Monday’s meeting but wish to voice your concerns, Councillor’s emails are:





You could also send a letter to The Peak: editor@prpeak.com


BREAKING NEWS:  City of Powell River’s grant application to fund co-treatment has been turned down.

Hopefully, now we can talk about ACTUAL INNOVATION. This is a great time to write to or call your city council and encourage them to pursue a public wastewater treatment plant.  Happy holidays Powell River!

Here is the Peak link:


Civic Election Update

Here are a few responses on key issues concerning sewage treatment from the recent All Candidates meetings:

Location of sewage treatment plant in Townsite

Dave Formosa’s platform for mayor says that one of the achievements of this past Council was to fix the location of the proposed sewage treatment plant – in Townsite.  Formosa has said that joint treatment has the advantage of  “cementing” the plant’s location in Townsite. (The location previously approved in the second phase of the sewage plan was the waste transfer site.)  Formosa also said that members of the sewage advisory committee mostly supported joint treatment but voted 10 to 1 against it because “they lost their will” in the face of public opposition.

Ballot vote on joint treatment

All current councillors opposed Mayor Stewart Alsgard’s proposal to have a question put to voters on whether residents approve of the idea of partnering with Catalyst on sewage treatment. They also blocked even having a Council vote on whether the question should be on the ballot. Chris McNaughton opposed a ballot question saying that “asking people a question just to get information is not a valid approach.”

Incumbent councillors say they will have a referendum once more information is available. New candidate for Council Scott Lukianchuk said he favoured a vote during the election because “if the people of this town don’t like the concept, what’s the point in pursuing it?” Gordon Crawford, Russell Brewer, Myrna Leishman all supported having a question on joint treatment on the November ballot.

Odour Control

A question put to all candidates by the Townsite Ratepayers was whether candidates would vote in favour of a sewage system with open ditches.  This is the sample technology that is in the draft plan right now, and what the cost estimates – approved  by Council – were based on.

All candidates have said they are opposed to open ditches.  Jim Palm and Chris McNaughton said they had voted in favour of  “best practices”, but did not address the issue included in our question that City staff have said “best practices” only means as much odour control as the city can afford.

Can Powell River’s Sewage System Be Fixed? A Special Opportunity to Hear from Sewage Experts

Sewage experts from General Electric will be in Powell River this week to speak to Council on the potential to fix Powell River’s main sewage treatment plant.  General Electric produces the  Membrane Bioreactor  technology used in advanced sewage treatment plants.

We have just found out that the GE experts are willing to have a short meeting with interested residents to explain how Powell River’s plant might be retrofitted. The public is invited to come to a meeting:

Thursday, October 20
1:30 PM
at the United Church Trinity Hall,
corner of Michigan and Duncan

Council’s current plan is to have the mill treat city sewage, which will involve constructing sewage lines to connect to the mill, demolishing the City’s existing plants, and building a new City sewage plant when the mill closes.  The Westview treatment plant, though, has not even been paid for.  This plant was intended to treat city sewage to a higher standard than the City’s proposed alternative. If it can be retrofitted, this could provide a lower cost, more environmentally beneficial solution to the city’s sewage issues.

The results of the second round of testing performed by Mr. Paul Klopping have been provided by Catalyst.  For your reference, here is George Orchiston’s letter of June 25, 2011 to the Mayor and Councillors which dealt with permissible fecal coliform levels and the necessity for disinfection.

Here is some more information from George Orchiston concerning the results of the second round of testing:

The Report clearly describes an improved testing protocol compared to the tests done in May and do demonstrate that co-treatment at the mill’s facilities will do a very good job regarding removal of BOD5 (biological oxygen demand) and TSS (total suspended solids).

I would draw your attention to Reactor 2 results in Scenarios #1, #2 and #3 which reflect what the actual co-treatment results would look like should it proceed.

The high test results for fecal coliform however are going to be problematic for proponents of co-treatment.

Table #1 at page 4 clearly compares the characteristics of the City’s wastewater to that of the Mill’s and one can see that most of the fecal coliform is generated by the City. Table #1 shows that the tested prescreened City Primary Effluent was 10 million cfu/100ml. (You should be aware that the highest fecal coliform reading, from the City’s 2010 records, was on Oct. 15,   20 million mpn/100ml ).

Reactor 2 in Scenario #1 records a fecal coliform result of 50,000 cfu/100ml. and Reactor 2 in Scenario #3 records a fecal coliform result of 250,000 cfu/100ml. Now if one divides each of these two results by 90 ( the dilution factor provide by the Mills effluent diffuser in the ocean), the fecal coliform count at the Initial Dilution Zone (IDZ) would be 555 and 2778 cfu/100ml respectively.

Should Municipal Sewage Regulation apply rather than the Company’s permit, the maximum permissible level for recreational waters is 200 cfu/100ml and disinfection of the total mill effluent flow to the ocean would be required. Of course the City could be forced by the Mill to disinfect the City wastewater before it is sent to the mill. With reference to Dayton and Knight this could cost the City upwards of $750,000 – $800,000.

The following presentation was made to Powell River City Council on Thursday, July 21, 2011 by Judy Watts for the Powell River Water Watch Coalition.  After the presentation, there was much discussion with fervent assurances that no smelly treatment plant of any kind would be built (despite clear information given at a previous meeting by Stogre that the city was definitely planning an open activated sludge plant and it would not be covered, and it would have some smell), and much interest in looking into the new membrane technology to see if the Westview plant could be retrofitted.  The saga continues.

Delegation to the COTW:  Thursday 21 July 2011, by Powell River Water Watch

As I know you have all done, the members of PR Water Watch have also read all the city’s previous reports on LWMP, talked to people and read pertinent literature.

At first, I for one, was prepared to consider the co-treatment option since the mill had an existing treatment plant.  However, the devil is in the detail – and in questionable planning.  There was that untenable plan to use the old clarifier which should never have been considered, and there are so many unanswered questions and unanswerable questions such as the viability of the mill, that I now support Powell River Water Watch in opposing this option.

The other option on the table, a single consolidated treatment plant is equally questionable.  Consider the cost and disruption of a pipeline to the plant.  Consider the switch of location of the plant from the Ministry approved Waste Transfer Site to Townsite with NO public consultation.  Consider the use of open activated sludge technology – a 19th century secondary level technology, also unfortunately already approved by the Ministry.

As the chairperson of the Townsite Ratepayers Association, I cannot support such obnoxious technology so close to valued homes – indeed I cannot support this technology close enough to homes in any part of the city that would be affected by the inevitable smell.

As a property taxpayer, however, I come to my greatest concern.  Given information gained from city staff and from recent literature on membrane technology, I must absolutely question the decision to pull down the Westview plant, a decision made over 7 years ago.  It is a tertiary level treatment plant that with upgrading most likely can function effectively.  While it may not be in the most ideal location it is there now.  There can be no business, financial nor environmental logic in spending tax payers’ money to tear down a 12 year old tertiary level facility that cost somewhere around $8 million to build, and on which we still owe $500,000, and to spend more tax payers’ money to replace it with a retrograde secondary level treatment facility!  This is not good business nor innovation and does not deserve funding from an innovation fund.

What is innovative would be to retrofit the existing Westview plant including use of updated membranes,  so that it works effectively, and then in due course to build a small, tertiary level plant in Townsite with sustainable technology that will make use of the byproducts of the plant.  This option would qualify as innovative for funding purposes. This would also be a positive response to “…the desire that the City explore some of the more innovative solutions being used around the world to both reduce the footprint, impacts and costs of building a facility” (quote from the facilitator’s report from the public consultation, paid for with my tax money.

Will this Council take on a business-like approach and review information readily available on line about innovations and improvements in membrane technology, and will this Council hire its own knowledgeable consultant to advise on membrane technology BEFORE making any further decisions?

Your response?

Up to now Council has clearly not been concerned about following the Ministry guidelines for LWM planning, nor following proper council procedure:

– it is ignoring the already approved Phase 2 decision to build a consolidated plant in the Waste Transfer Site.  Will Council be re-doing Phase 2 for Ministry approval of a different site?

– it has ignored the strong message from the public received through its own consultations and through the petition it received, and made a decision for co-treatment.  Is this the “done deal” the consultation facilitator suggested?

– it has made conflicting motions, first to make no decision until AFTER a town hall meeting (and directed staff to make a plan for that meeting which staff ignored and did not do), and then a motion to decide for the “phased option” with co-treatment BEFORE holding a town hall meeting.

Will Council honour its first or its second motion?  Will Council hold staff to account?

Judy Watts
Chairperson, Townsite Ratepayers Association
– for Powell River Water Watch


Starting in 2001, Powell River pays for studies and consults the public to develop a new sewage plan. The Waste Transfer site is the location the public and City committees recommend for a new consolidated treatment plant.


Council adopts Powell River’s Stage 2 Liquid Waste Management Report that identifies the Waste Transfer site as the location for a consolidated public waste treatment plant.


MOE approves Powell River’s plan for a public waste treatment plant at the Waste Transfer site.


Catalyst asks City Council for a contract to treat city sewage at its sewage treatment plant. Raising concerns over possible mill closure, labour stoppages and other issues, the City Engineer Don MacKinnon describes joint treatment “as a $15- to $20-million gamble on the future of Catalyst.”


April – City Council signs an Agreement in Principle with Catalyst for a 20 year joint treatment deal as one part of Powell River’s “plan to reduce the property tax rate for major industry.”

May – A study experimenting with treating combined City and Catalyst liquid waste finds that the effluent produced would not comply with Catalyst’s permit. This negative result is dismissed as merely a problem with the test method.

August – Catalyst’s lawyers inform the City that the mill’s plant would not be available for city use after a mill closure.

October – Consulting engineers issue draft report on joint treatment. The report advises: “The City should be prepared for the Mill closure on short notice. The City will also need assurance that the necessary funds are available on short notice.”


January – City applies for $7.27 million for joint treatment from the federal-provincial Innovations Fund. The application states that “The Joint Treatment option was selected in consultation with stakeholders…” In fact no public consultation meetings had been held and the Liquid Waste Joint Advisory Committee had not made any recommendation on the preferred option.

February – City announces it will hold its first public consultation meetings on joint treatment versus the public options.

May – The City decides to drop any risk factor to account for mill closure from the cost estimates it presents to the public.

May – The City holds a public Open House and dialogue meeting on sewage option

May – The report on the public consultation is published.  It concludes: “The input from the community through the Open House and Word Cafe processes overwhelmingly support some form of consolidated plant facility for Powell River. A joint treatment option was rejected on all levels.”

May – The Advisory Committee votes 10 to 1 in favour of a publicly owned and operated treatment facility.  The dissenting vote is cast by the mill’s representative on the committee, the person who originally proposed joint treatment.

June – City Council votes to reject the recommendation of the Advisory Committee for a public facility.  It also rejects a motion to approve joint treatment.

On June 27, Council approves a third option labelled “Phased Consolidation”. The two phases of this option are first to enter into a joint treatment contract with the mill for 10 years using money from the Innovations Fund, and then for the City to build its own plant with 2/3 funding from senior governments.

Some of the conditions placed on Council approval of “Phased Consolidation” are:

– To get tests that show joint treatment can produce the quality of effluent required, since the first test failed to get an acceptable result.

– To find out whether disinfection is required for the safety of mill workers before city sewage is sent to the mill. Disinfection would make joint treatment prohibitively expensive.

– To acquire land required for pre-treatment.

The Phased Consolidation Option was never presented to the public in the consultation process, despite Section 27 (1) of the Environmental Management Act.  This Section states that municipalities “shall provide a process for comprehensive review and consultation with the public respecting all aspects of the development, amendment and final content of a waste management plan . . . ”

Estimates are published showing capital costs of the Phased Consolidation Option would be more than if the City just built its own public plant from the beginning. $1.74 million in capital costs would be spent on pipelines connecting City sewers to the mill, an asset that would become worthless under the Phased Consolidation Option when the City builds its own plant. This capital expenditure on infrastructure that will be abandoned amounts to 24% of the money the City has applied for from the Innovations Fund.