Friday, August 26, 2022

City Council members put faith in Wastewater pilot project to lead to resolution of Federal environmental orders

Richard Pucci the City's Director of Operations and 
Intergovernmental Relations updated Council members
on some environmental orders from the Federal Government
as part of the Monday council session

Prince Rupert City Council members gained an update on how the Federal Government is viewing their progress towards a long standing period of non compliance on Federal environmental themes.

The City's Director of Operations and Intergovernmental Relations provided Council with the details of how the City's wastewater has been on the radar for the Federal Government for over a decade. 

With Richard Pucci providing for the narrative towards where the city is and where it hopes to go in the future.

"As Council is aware, we have a long history of non compliance in the area of liquid waste. However, staff have been working in concert with the Federal and Provincial Government over the past decade to really get a plan together for us to move forward with sewer treatment.

We have been working obviously on our wetland treatment system which is an innovative and green solution, climate change adaptation is a big thing and sustainability and we want to make sure that we're doing the right type of processing to move us forward into the 21st century. 

So we're very pleased with that and so is the province and Federal government" -- Director of Operations Richard Pucci

While the City looks to the future and their innovative system under development with hopes of success, the present is providing for some immediate attention as Mr. Pucci outlined in his report to Council.

"However, we do have a directive and this directive is a legal order and that Council needs to be aware that they have to adopt it by resolution. Upon resolution, staff will facilitate the conditions that are outlined in that order as they are seen in the package.  

And if we do not comply with that order there could fined levied against the city over the years between now and 2030." -- Director of Operations Richard Pucci

The Director of Operations did not specify the orders  in the public session, though the report from Environment and Climate Change Canada (available through the Council Agenda package starting on page 20 )  does provide the background to what has caught their attention and the measures that the Federal agency expects the city to take and amount of the fines noted by Mr. Pucci should the city fail to take action.

The focus for the agency is the volume of untreated effluent that is deposited into Prince Rupert harbour, as well as some of the history of past written warnings related to the concerns that Environment and Climate Change Canada had.

As for the measures to be taken, the orders for the city to follow begin this month. With the agency noting of the city's pilot project as part of their considerations.

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The scope of the fines that the city could face without corrective measures  could reach up into the millions of dollars and they were also part of the letter to the City from July.

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In his presentation to Council on Monday night, Mr. Pucci outlined some of the areas where the City has challenged the Federal report, observing of his delivery of an Oral Representation towards those concerns.

"We had a draft administrative directive that we were given several months ago, staff reviewed that and there was some particular issues around the measures to be taken. So we went and we made what was an Oral Representation in front of Environment Canada and Climate Change  and were able to work with them on particular issues so that we've got our concerns met, as well as their concerns.

So at the end of the day, we believe that the Administrative Directive though very prescriptive and rigid is attainable. 

And we will be looking for treatment by 2030 as per the legislated directive. But what they are giving us is a path so that we can explore  our innovative solution and get our ducks in a row to be able to get their by 2030 with our new system.

So we're very pleased with that. So we do not know the budget implications at this time, we do have feasibility studies of what the cost could be, but knowing where the costs are going right now, we could see escalation in that. 

But we do know that there would be a significant savings against classic treatment of sewer treatment,   large concrete style sewage treatment facilities when we do this wetland system" -- Director of Operations Richard Pucci

A look at Mr. Pucci's Oral Presentation notes is also part of the Council Agenda package and  can be found below:

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From the presentation and the reading material as part of the Agenda for the night, only two Council members had a few questions to ask of the Director of Operations on the themes he outlined.

Councillor Nick Adey spoke of the conundrum that the City finds itself in related to the Federal Directives.

"I'm intrigued I suppose by the requirement that it be done by resolution; but you've got to do it anyway which seems to me where we're at" -- Councillor Nick Adey

He also made an enquiry related to the process and the deadline that is looming and the steps to follow on the outfalls.

Mr. Pucci observed of the status of the reports and what path the city will take to follow the required work.

"The reports that are due by August 30th are almost complete, I'm personally writing them myself and turning them over. There are action items that have to be done by the end of August and I will be putting those forward. -- Director of Operations Richard Pucci

Towards the characterization work referenced by the Councillor, Mr. Pucci noted that is similar work as was done a few years ago with a camera study to explore the situation and take corrective measures for the outfalls.

Councillor Adey observing from the overview that  he assumed that is why there is no awareness of budget impacts as they don't know what they may find.

Councillor Barry Cunningham sought some clarifications on themes towards determining possible measures.

"We do have bi-annual meetings with the compliance officers and I am in constant contact. So what we do, we will be putting together an active budget for works, for the next year and then we would make sure that they are aware of what we've got approved, what we can do.

And if we can talk with them about pushing something a year forward or not if we can't afford to do it. 

So this is prescriptive but it can be adjusted over time. So they ultimately approve the works, they have set this out but we do have an opportunity to go to them and say we physically can't get this work done. 

And then they can either compel us to do it or they could relax some of it an push it to the next year." -- Director of Operations Richard Pucci

Councillor Cunningham also had a question on the city's plans for the wetland system underway and what awareness the Federal Government has of it.

"They are aware of our pilot project, they are an outside stakeholder on that process and they are vey eager to see our results. And if we are successful in our results, which I think we will be in our results then we will not have to do the separation as required if we went to the classic style of treatment.

So this is able to be massaged a little bit over the years, when we've met some of the yearly objectives we can take a look back and if we have to adjust we can, but it's really up to them to do that" -- Director of Operations Richard Pucci
As a final thought to the topic, Councillor Cunningham also called attention to the use of the water system in the community by the Port asking if the Prince Rupert Port Authority was assisting the City with the project.

"Just for my curiosity, the biggest industrial use of our system in this town is the Port, are they helping us in any way with this?" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

Mr. Pucci noted that at this time it was purely a City of Prince Rupert initiative.

The full discussion from Monday's Council session can be explored through the City's Video Archive starting at the 9 minute mark.

As the Director of Operations notes, the City is putting a lot of faith in their innovative sewer treatment pilot project towards addressing the Federal concerns. 

That project currently in motion for the west side of the city was one of the key elements of Mayor Lee Brain's State of the City Presentation, the notes from that public update can be found here.

More background on the City's plans for wastewater treatment can be reviewed through our Major Projects Archive.

Further items of note coming out of the Monday Council Session can be found from our Council Timeline Feature.


  1. As a resident of Prince Rupert I will state I am losing faith on the decisions being made by city administration and council. The trial treatment plant for a 100 or so homes along with the HOPE it works as a plan doesn't make sense. Planning also involves what if's. The what if I am asking is: What if the pilot project doesn't work?

    This is coming from an administration that was fine with voluntary bylaw tickets. If they messed that up how bad can the sewer system get?

  2. I understand that this lagoon concept could cost taxpayers a significant amount of money, it is worth exploring.


    Is no one at City Hall concerned that by chasing this concept, other operational responsibilities will continue to be neglected/delayed? For example,

    - Laneways were never accounted for, costs for laneways are now downloaded to residents via a local area improvement by-law
    - Road maintenance is still very reactionary, year by year
    - What lessons were learned from the snow events this year, and how are we preparing to improve?
    - Recycling program, half rolled out and delayed (no multi unit solution, city garbage cans are not aligned to program goals.

    Leaders are expected to be innovative, but they are also expected to be accountable.

    1. Correction -
      I understand that this lagoon concept could SAVE taxpayers a significant amount of money, it is worth exploring.

    2. Yes, as you noted in your correction, the hope of the City is that the project will be a successful initiative that saves money compared to the more traditional water treatment options found elsewhere. That won't be known however until the Pilot Project is up and running and evaluated ... NCR