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Sechelt explores four options for using reclaimed water

Will a benefit identified with WRC approval become reality seven years later?
N.Water Resource Centre
A Sechelt Park’s employee tends the ‘struggling’ landscape at the Water Resource Centre. Despite having ample non-potable water available on site and the municipality looking at options for reuse of the reclaimed water, the plantings suffer as there is no irrigation in place.

With its Water Resource Centre (WRC) effectively recovering reusable water from wastewater, Sechelt needs more cash to put that resource to use. At the March 9 committee of the whole meeting, consulting firm Kerr Wood Leidal (KWL) provided council with preliminary estimates of between one and 10 million dollars to implement reclaimed water use. The final report to council is due by May. 

The WRC uses a minimal amount of the water it recovers within the facility, despite resource reclamation being cited as a major factor when the municipality promoted construction the $25 million project. WRC construction started in 2012 and it was opened in 2014.

District Parks staff working at the site on March 14 told Coast Reporter that as there is no irrigation system for the facility's landscaping, plantings struggle, despite an abundance of reclaimed water on hand.  

While soils separated from the waste are sent for recycling, the majority of the filtered and suitable for non-potable use water that is reclaimed is discharged into Trail Bay, via an outfall pipe that is more than 25 years old. According to discussions at the meeting, the need to upgrade and potentially expand the outfall, a project valued in 2014 at $3.4 million, is looming within the coming years. 

The engineering volume limit of the outfall is 6,400 cubic meters per day, Sechelt’s communications manager, Lindsay Vickers, said in an email. "The municipal wastewater regulation registration allows for a maximum discharge of 4,750 cubic meters per day. We exceeded the maximum daily discharge on Nov. 15, 2021 at 4,932 cubic meters per day. Second to that was Nov. 14, 2021 at 3,838.” Both record discharge days coincided with last year’s atmospheric river event. In extremely wet weather, rainwater works its way into the wastewater collection system and adds to the volume.

To look at possibilities for reclaimed water reuse and diversion of that product from the outfall, Sechelt contracted with KWL in 2021. The contract was valued at $40,000, with $10,000 coming from a provincial infrastructure planning grant.

The municipality surveyed the community on its views about potential water reuse. That data was factored in as the consulting firm presented its top four alternatives for realizing community benefits from the reclaimed resource. 

The most expensive option of using WRC reclaimed water to maintain Chapman Creek’s environmental flows after drinking water has been withdrawn, appeared to generate interest from Mayor Darnelda Siegers. The mayor who also chairs the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board, said “conversations would need to happen” with that jurisdiction on sharing costs for the $10.1 million project. She noted that putting reclaimed water into the creek below the potable water intake might allow the SCRD access to more creek water, which could increase the Coast’s potable water supply. If the province confirms that proposal would allow the SCRD to draw more creek water and defer the cost of extending Sechelt’s outfall, Siegers indicated the project could be a “win-win” for both jurisdictions. 

Shona Robinson of KWL cautioned that undertaking had a “high price tag and was only feasible if offsetting other projects. If the SCRD is looking at other options for water supply, does this one make sense?”

Another option that would require provincial approval before being considered would be using the reclaimed water to revitalize the Sechelt Marsh area that is adjacent to the WRC. Robinson explained that at a projected cost of $2.2 million, that option could use up to 90 percent of the discharge water and was the firm’s recommended alternative to explore. Reclaimed water would flow through the marsh, allowing areas that currently go stagnant during drier months to foster habitat for native plant and waterfowl before flowing into Porpoise Bay.

McBride, B.C. is currently doing something similar with reclaimed water, Robinson said. The Village of McBride, located between Prince George and Jasper, Alberta, has a population of 616.

The village’s website states that its sewer system is one of the first environmentally friendly, non-chemical systems in North America. Similar to Sechelt’s WRC, McBride’s system uses biological purification, via a variety of plant species within treatment cells, as well as filtering of wastewater through adjacent wetlands and tree lots to purify wastewater. Liquid effluent from the system is discharged into the Fraser River and is used to sustain a wetland habitat, woodlots of native trees and a year-round recreation area. In 2010, the Sandman Inn, which has a McBride location, partnered with the village to fund an estimated $4 million in system enhancements.  The village received grant funding from the Building Canada Fund to help pay for its share of the costs. 

Coast Reporter contacted McBride’s chief administrative officer Chris Tuby with questions about how the province processed project approvals and the level of success the undertaking has achieved. Tuby said that project approval pre-dated his arrival in the community, but commented in his email “overall, our experience with the system has been well-received since the various phases of upgrades were completed between 2010 and 2014.”  

Robinson noted the marsh discharge could be paired with another option: establishment of a bulk water filling station at the WRC.  She noted the combination of the two alternatives could provide for optimal reclaimed water diversion as well as providing a small-scale water reuse option for residents.  The filling station is envisioned to be a larger version of the ground water access facility at the WRC. Since 2014, Sechelt has used that source for watering ornamental plantings and allowed public access to that water for plants and other non-potable uses when the SCRD has Stage 3 watering restrictions in place.

The bulk water station was not an effective option on its own, Robinson said as it would use less than one percent of the reclaimed water the WRC produces annually. The cost of building the station was estimated at $1.1 million. It was also noted that ongoing costs for the filling station option would be higher than for the other recommended alternatives, as distribution of water using trucks is not as cost efficient as transporting it by pipe.   

The option of piping reclaimed water for use in the downtown Sechelt public areas and residences was also identified as a possibility.  That alternative received a lower recommendation from KWL as it would use about four percent of the water the WRC makes available. It would cost about $3.8 million to build an additional line and pumping infrastructure to deliver the water for use.