Two B.C. towns upgrade WWTPs to protect aquatic life

The British Columbia communities of Maliview and Ahousaht First Nation, pictured, are both celebrating advancements in their wastewater treatment capabilities. Photo credit: David Stanley, Wikimedia Commons

As British Columbia’s Ahousaht First Nation celebrates the completion of their new wastewater treatment plant, the province’s Maliview Wastewater Treatment Plant three-phase upgrade project on Salt Spring Island has received new funding.

For Ahousaht First Nation—one of B.C.’s largest First Nations, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island—the new plant replaces the old septic tank treatment and lift station, as well as the old outfall pipe, which was unable to properly protect seafood safety and did not meet regulatory standards due to its location in a shellfish habitat sensitive to sewage contamination.

The new plant will provide adequate wastewater collection, secondary  treatment with disinfection, and marine disposal, while meeting both the federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations and the B.C. Municipal Wastewater Regulation. The larger infrastructure will have the capacity to support future population growth in the community, which is only accessible by ferry or plane, and support seafood safety by protecting local marine ecosystems, stated an announcement from Indigenous Services Canada.

“As an oceanic people, our marine ecosystem and aquatic food systems are integral and interconnected to our way of life,” announced Ahousaht Chief John Rampanen, in a statement. “The improvements offered through this updated wastewater treatment facility will not only sustain our efforts to enhance and protect our environment, it will also greatly improve our quality of life,” he added.

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Ahousaht’s new wastewater system is designed to accommodate 1,300 people, nearly double its current population.

For Salt Spring Island, the new $1.98 million in funding will go towards the supply and delivery of packaged moving bed biofilm reactors for the Maliview Wastewater Treatment Plant, which has consistently struggled to meet regulatory requirements.

During summer 2019, Environment and Climate Change Canada officers inspected the Maliview WWTP and collected effluent samples for toxicity testing. The samples failed both Rainbow Trout lethality analyses and contained approximately 1.5 times more ammonia than allowable. It was these issues that led to the creation of the three-phase upgrade plan.

In phase one of Maliview’s upgrades, local officials identified several actions to improve service, such as increasing the frequency of waste sludge hauling to reduce solids retention time. This move improved the organic removal efficiency of the rotating biological contactor. Additionally, the plant increased the fats, oils and grease removal frequency, removed some biomass from the first stage of the contactor, and fixed the short-circuiting of the return activated sludge from the primary clarifier to the secondary clarifier.

Detailed design work is currently underway for Maliview to refine cost estimates and inform next steps, including a decision to proceed with a borrowing bylaw and begin construction in 2023.

Maliview’s WWTP was built in the late 1970s and discharges treated effluent into Trincomali Channel.

This article appears in ES&E Magazine’s April 2023 issue:

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