Violations lead Alberta village to consider geotechnical investigation of wastewater lagoon issues 

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Municipal officials in the Alberta village of Big Valley want to undertake a geotechnical inspection of its wastewater lagoon, following alleged violations that date back to early 2022.  

Big Valley’s Public Works Foreman, Monte DeMarco, noted in a February 2024 letter to environmental enforcement officers that upon starting his position earlier this year, he “discovered a history of turnover in key positions, resulting in minimal attention or direction given towards maintaining or meeting regulatory standards.” 

Some of the violations raised by the Enforcement Branch of Environment and Climate Change Canada include the village exceeding the suspended solids limit for the lagoon. Its average concentration of suspended solids exceeded the 25 mg/L threshold by 1 mg for 2019. 

Big Valley had also been late in submitting its monitoring reports, one by nearly a year.  

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The village was also found to not have had its undersigned inspector test for carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (CBOD) for three straight years, beginning in 2019. 

A report to Big Valley’s village council from MPE Engineering, who began an infrastructure study in 2023, identified four cells at the entrance of the lagoon that are a major concern, as well as a crack at the end of the lagoon system effluent pond that could contribute to leakage. 

MPE Engineering, a division of Englobe, recommended that the village  undertake a geotechnical investigation in order to determine the true soil and groundwater conditions, as well as the condition of the lagoon’s liner and foundation.  

Additionally, MPE noted the presence of ice buildup during winter 2004, which indicates ice lensing has accelerated seepage, and represents a significant risk to the safety of the embankment, which is also in question with respect to stability and internal erosion. 

MPE noted that the embankment meets the definition of a dam, according to the Water Act, and a number of engineering and administrative tasks need to be undertaken. 

The geotechnical inspection is estimated to cost about $48,000. 

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