Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Omenica Out, Moresby Park In! City makes shift of location for Wastewater Treatment Pilot project in Prince Rupert

Jennifer Massig from Magna Engineering provides a wastewater project
update to Prince Rupert City Council

The innovative wastewater project that has been the focus for City Council for the last few years will be seeing a change in location, with the original Omenica location now to be replaced by a location on the edge of Moresby Park adjacent to Park Avenue.

The change of location was one of a number of themes explored at Monday's Council session as  Jennifer Massig the President of Magna Engineering Services Incorporated, delivered a presentation towards the topic which has been part of the council discussion for a number of years now. 

The Magna President brought a team from the company with her to update council on their innovative wastewater project and to note of some changes that will be put in place.

The largest change, that of a shift of the pilot project from its original proposed location at Omenica and other locations studied; with the new destination for the project at the recently removed tank infrastructure location along the Moresby Park area,  

The area adjacent to the Park Avenue entrance to Moresby
Park (seen above from 2019 remediation work) is the
new location for the city's wastewater treatment pilot project

The area of development was noted as that which had previously contained the World War II era Department of National Defense tanks adjacent to Moresby Pond.  The area from where the tanks had been located and the space towards Park Avenue is what is planned for the new wastewater treatment use

The wastewater plans would make use of gravity infrastructure for the project, once in operation it would treat wastewater to the same quality as a traditional mechanical plant but doing it with passive subsurface wetland.

Ms. Massig observed how the technology, which is in place in an Alberta and other locations world wide is designed to be unique technology specific to the community they are installing it in. The purpose of the pilot project is to set the parameters for any future applications that they may do in the city.

The choice of the Moresby Park area was explained as due to its an environmentally friendly area and how the completed project resemble a mini forest with a horizontal component to reflect similar features as found in the park now.

Ms. Massig also highlighted the educational aspect that it would provide towards explaining the project to the community, with the opportunity to place signs to explain the work.

She also spoke to the schedule ahead and how some of the challenges and uncertainties her team discovered during their time in Prince Rupert and how moving the pilot project to the Moresby area reduces many of those uncertainties.

The proposed timeline would see the Design phase in place by May of this year, the tender process would follow from June to July, with construction  to take place from August to December.

The Pilot project would be up and running by early 2025.

Following the presentation, Council members had a range of questions and observations, with Councillor Cunningham leading off for his main focus that of the volume of precipitation that Prince Rupert gets.

The answer noted that the rain in Prince Rupert was on far side of their scale, though she noted how the new location would make use of civic infrastructure.

Mr Cunningham also asked about non biodegradable solids, to that Magna would be screening off those aspects of the wastewater, which would use a screw press to reduce that footprint which then would go to the landfill.

Councillor Randhawa asked if the water could the be returned for household civic reuse, he was advised that the pilot system was designed to return the water to the  ocean, noting how the quality would be acceptable towards a return to home use, though there are policy issues towards that.

Councillor Nick Adey expressed his enthusiasm for the project, noting it has been part of the council discussion process for a number of years now. 

He also highlighted the economic aspects of the project, the environmentally friendly nature of the plans as well as to express interest in the educational aspect of the new site location at Moresby and how it would be more accessible to inform the public more about the issues of wastewater management.

"I've been a part of hearing about this process for a long time, now it feels like a long time and I've always been excited about the potential for it in three ways. 

Two ways that I've been aware of and then you've just kind of given me another.

The economics of it with respect to our costs in dealing with the issue, the environmentally friendly nature of it, which I think is useful for us, but I think it is also a model for other places as well.

And the one that you've kind of added to that is I think is specific to the new location and that's the educational potential of it. 

Because it's more accessible, you know  if I was wanting to bring some kids in and shew them how this works  it's much easier to do that in the Moresby area than it would have been up behind Omenica. 

So I'm excited about all those.

Adey did have a question towards the long term science of the initiative, asking for a projection for the location fifty years from now.

In reply, Ms. Massig noted that even if they've been left alone with little attention the platform still works as designed, though they have slowed owing to little maintenance.

With an active maintenance and removal process over periods of time the expectations would assist in the cost benefit of the system.

The Councillor also asked about assurances that any breakdowns or problems would impact on the park area.

"It's in a well attended beautiful, natural setting, which as you alluded to, trails and walking trails and in a world where anything that could go wrong, sometimes does. What are the assurances are that if there are breakdowns or problems, that that won't have adverse impact on that natural environment around it?"

Towards that a few risk scenarios were explored and how the design componnents from the project would attend to those issues. As well it was noted that fencing would be used to separate park users from the active area of the wastewater program.

Councillor Niesh returned to the issue of the volume of rain in Prince Rupert and what measures they have taken towards that situation, Ms. Massig noted that at the moment they are over compensating in the pilot project towards that rainfall volume, though the hope is to return to a more normal approach found in other communities.

Councillor Cunningham asked how Magna determines the volume of flow from homes on the system, to that the standard of the worst possible day was the benchmark for design, as well as to follow up on the pilot project they would monitor the community to create a better data base for future additions to the program.

Towards a question from Councillor Niesh towards items that foul systems, Ms. Massig noted of the screening system that would be in place.

For some final thoughts, the Mayor turned to Operations Director Richard Pucci, who was participating by Zoom and noted how with the infrastructure work ahead the city would be separating the lines currently in place which would be better for the initiative to be put in place.

He also stressed on the area of savings and how the pilot project is fully funded through grants.

"The only one thing I just want to add is that we are working our infrastructure over the next few years and we are working to do separation as much as possible that will concentrate the flows.

Our biggest issue as Jen was saying  is that we have a lot of I and I and a lot of storm that is tied in. So as we go through the system and making infrastructure upgrades, we will be separating, which then will concentrate flows which is better for this process.

Worst case scenario, is that  we have looked at this entire city as if it was as it is today, so if we narrow flows we're just going to be in better shape, which is great for everybody.

It is massive cost savings, massive savings on operations and maintenance over all, so we're happy to  you know move forward with this pilot project. And as council is aware the pilot project is fully funded through grants, so we are very fortunate with that as well"

While the Council members had many questions for Ms. Massig, none asked the Operations Director if the decision to change locations would come with any additional costs to the city; or if there would be a change towards timeline for development and how that may impact on past Federal concerns over the city's wastewater issues.

You can review the full presentation and Council questions from the City's Video Archive starting at the opening of the Monday session.

A wider overview of Monday's Council session can be reviewed here.

The City followed up on Monday's session, with an information release today which expands on some of the notes from the Monday presentation, noting of the fall start for construction.   

“We are excited to see this innovative and environmentally friendly approach to treating our wastewater is going forward this year. This project is almost entirely funded through grants, is much more cost effective than alternatives, and will require minimal maintenance and overhead costs to taxpayers.” -- Mayor Herb Pond

As Councillor Adey noted during the presentation, the city's plans for wastewater treatment have been a long running discussion around the Council Chamber. 

Some past notes on the city's ambitions for waste water treatment can be explored below:

As the new focus for the wastewater site at Moresby moves forward, we'll track all of the developments in our Infrastructure and  Major Projects Archive page.

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