Wednesday, February 8, 2023
February 8, 2023

Liquid waste commission aims to reduce trucking costs and impacts

The commission charged with making decisions about how Salt Spring’s liquid waste is handled is hoping to find a less wasteful and more environmentally and economically responsible option for dealing with it.

At a special meeting held last month, the Salt Spring Island Liquid Waste Disposal Local Services Commission approved a project charter that will see the Capital Regional District (CRD) hire a consultant to look at options for dealing with the island’s liquid waste that don’t involve sending it off island as 98 per cent water, which has been done since 2011.

Commission chair Mary Richardson told the Driftwood that islanders currently pay about $600,000 per year for Coast Environmental to truck the liquid waste from the CRD site at Burgoyne Bay to SPL Wastewater Recovery Centre in Langford once or twice a week. The trucking service is not only expensive in itself — and has doubled in cost since 2015 — but creates unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. Richardson said the commission hopes to find a cost-effective method of dewatering the waste so less volume needs to be trucked off-island, and ultimately for it to be completely dealt with on-island at Burgoyne Bay.

“There’s so many fancy, expensive, high-tech ways of dealing with poop,” she said. “But we’re hoping to have one that’s scalable for Salt Spring. We don’t want to put in a $5-million anaerobic digester or something like that. Our goal really is to dewater it. So instead of shipping off the waste, we would find some method to dewater.”

A few of the options the commission has researched are use of geotubes, reed beds and an enzyme treatment process.

Richardson said geotubes are basically giant black plastic socks with the septage pumped into one end.

“It gravity feeds the fluid through a filter at the bottom of the tube, and basically clear water comes out the bottom and just runs off.”

Reed bed concepts have been around for hundreds of years, she said, and work to filter out all the bacteria, toxins and heavy metals.

“And again, you’re ending up with just clear water eventually running off, which is great.”

A company called Acti-zyme produces “an enhanced biocatalyst product” that has seen great results in sewage treatment as well.

While minimizing the amount of material trucked off-island and the high cost is the current goal, in the long term the commission would like to see the end product kept and used on the island. At present Salt Spring’s waste ends up being processed into what is known as a Class-A biosolid and used as fertilizer on Vancouver Island.

However, the CRD does not allow land application of such biosolids. Richardson said she believes the CRD is the only jurisdiction in Canada with such a prohibition. Until that situation changes, Salt Spring will only be able to treat its septage here, with the final product still being trucked off the island.

“The commission’s ultimate goal is to keep everything here, process that properly, get the water out of it and use it here, and not truck anything off island.”

The Burgoyne Bay septage facility has a complicated and unfortunate history of work authorized by CRD referendums held in 1993 and 2008 not coming to fruition or working out as planned.

Richardson describes one situation.

“When the lagoons closed we got a Fournier press and — according to the commissioners that were on the commission at the time when the Fournier press was set up — it never worked properly. It always seemed to be broken and struggling. And eventually they just gave up on trying to fix it.”

Richardson hopes that kind of situation can be avoided through use of a pilot project for whatever new method is chosen from the options analysis.

The commission agreed to spend $70,000 on the study from its capital reserve fund, with $63,000 allotted for the contract and $7,000 for CRD management of the project.

Richardson said the aim is for the options report to be finished this year. A decision about how to proceed would then be made by Salt Spring’s new local community commission.

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