Strategies to deal with the problems with odours from the Bald Mountain waste treatment plant, which services approximately 125 residences just west of Lake Cowichan, are finally in play.
The Electoral Area Services Committee at the Cowichan Valley Regional District, which owns the facility, has recommended to the board that short-term upgrades to the treatment plant be completed to lessen the aroma from the facility, and further odour assessments be conducted.
Nearby home owners, mainly in the Woodland Shores community, have been complaining for some time about the odour of feces and other related smells from the treatment plant that have been wafting through their homes during different periods of the day and night during the year.
The treatment plant is registered as class-A under the Ministry of Environment, which is the highest standard in the province, but due to the highly variable loading, it’s challenging to tune the plant to minimize the odours.
One of the major problems with the plant is that, with so many of the homeowners it serves being there only on weekends, or as seasonal occupants, the sewage flows to the plant are highly variable, so it’s very challenging to get its systems to settle down and function consistently.
Louise Knodel-Joy, a senior engineering technologist with the CVRD, said in a staff report that a Purafil media filter was installed at the plant in 2019 to process the odours arising from the pre-screen, which constituted the main source of odours from the plant.
“This proven technology has been used in several of our wastewater plants but, despite this, we continued to receive recent odour complaints,” she said.
“Operations staff hired the consultant Arcadis to review the odour issues and requested recommendations for options to reduce odours. Short-term, lower-cost recommendations, such as replacing the media in the existing odour control unit and adjusting the run cycles at the lift station, have been completed. Carbon manhole and air vent filters have also been ordered and will be installed on arrival.”
Knodel-Joy said other long-term recommendations, such as expanding the odour-control building to incorporate equalization tanks, a closed gas scrubber unit, and a closed biofiltration unit at lift stations, which together would cost up to $420,000, can’t be implemented within the current budget or reserve funds.
She said future phases of the Bald Mountain development will require additional phases of the treatment plant that would include odour control, and the cost of any additional phases would be paid by the developer.
“Utilities staff are proceeding with the short-term recommendations within the existing budget for this project,” Knodel-Joy said.
“Long-term recommendations will require an approval process and long-term borrowing.”
The committee voted unanimously to recommend to the board that the short-term upgrades be completed, and further odour assessments be reviewed and considered.
Karen Deck, the CVRD’s new director for Youbou/Meade Creek where the treatment plant is located, said at a committee meeting on Dec. 7 that she’s sure everyone who had anything to do with the treatment plant, from the CVRD to the developers to the home buyers, felt confident it was going to be as successful as class-A plants have been in other jurisdictions, but for whatever reasons or conditions, it hasn’t been.
“I spoke to those most impacted by the odours as I went door-to-door during the election campaign and I know they wouldn’t characterize what they’ve been experiencing as a nuisance odour because it has severely impacted their quality of life,” Deck said.
“There have been efforts to address this issue and there will be additional strategies implemented, and I’m grateful for staff for that. I’m in favour of quick fixes, short-term solutions and any necessary remedies that will allow these people to enjoy their homes in the natural world that first drew them to the Cowichan Valley.”